Interbrew, the world's second largest brewer, could face huge fines if EU antitrust authorities find it guilty of operating illegal cartels in Belgium. Investigators claim to have evidence proving Belgium's top brewers Interbrew and Alken-Maes, plus a couple of smaller firms, were guilty of price fixing, market sharing and information exchange between 1993 and 1998. The brewers now have two months to present a written defence or ask for a hearing. If they are found guilty of anticompetitive practices, they could each face fines of up to 10% of annual turnover. An Interbrew spokesman admitted: "Indeed we have been participating in concerted practices and it will not happen again." He insisted such actions had been reported to the authorities, while an internal audit system had been introduced to prevent any further breach. "As soon as we were informed we were interpreting the legislation incorrectly, we stopped immediately," he said, but added that the company knew it could face fines. Brewers in Luxembourg have also been accused of restricting the entry of foreign rivals into the domestic market, while offices at Carlsberg, Heineken and Grolsch have been raided by EU officials seeking evidence. Although Scottish & Newcastle owns Alken-Maes, the British firm is not implicated in the inquiry because it purchased the Belgian brewer after the period under investigation. {{NEWS }}