WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- An executive with embattled Japanese auto supplier Takata Corp. was indicted today for conspiring to fix the prices of seat belts sold to carmakers, the U.S. Justice Department said.
The indictment is the latest in a global probe of price fixing of auto parts. A total of 32 companies have pleaded guilty or agreed to do so and 50 executives have taken a plea bargain or been indicted in the investigation.
Similar investigations have been under way in the European Union, Asia and various countries around the world.
Hiromu Usuda, a sales executive for Takata from 2005 to 2011, is accused of meeting with executives of other companies that make seat belts to reach agreements on what they would charge, the department said.
The affected automakers were Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co., Mazda Motor Corp. and Subaru, the department said.
Efforts to reach Usuda for comment through Takata were unsuccessful. The Justice Department statement did not indicate Usuda's current employment status with Takata. His whereabouts were not immediately clear.
The Justice Department and other antitrust enforcers worldwide have been investigating price fixing of more than 30 car parts, including air-conditioning systems, power window motors and power steering components.
This isn't the first time Takata has been implicated in the U.S. price-fixing scandal. In October 2013, the company agreed to pay $71.3 million in fines to settle antitrust charges over price fixing on seat belts. Besides Usuda, five other Takata executives have been charged in the prosecution.
Takata also has been at the epicenter of a global safety crisis involving defective airbag inflators that have been linked to at least five fatalities caused by shrapnel shooting into passenger compartments during accidents. About 24 million vehicles have been recalled with Takata airbags since 2008, according to Reuters estimates.
Automotive News contributed to this report.
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