AUSTRALIAN Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC), the country's competition watchdog, has for the first time used its power to launch criminal prosecutions for cartel behaviour in a case filed against Japanese shipping group NYK.
It's the first time the ACCC has used its criminal cartel powers, which attract stiff penalties including jail time, since they were granted in 2009 following the watchdog's exposure of collusion between packaging giants Visy and Amcor, The Australian reported.
If found guilty, corporations face severe fines of up to AUD 10 million (US$7.6 million), 10 per cent of their annual turnover or three times their ill-gotten gains, whichever is larger, while individuals can be jailed for up to 10 years.
An NYK spokeswoman said: "I do not feel that it is appropriate to comment at this stage other than to note that NYK has co-operated fully with the ACCC during the course of its investigation."
The exact charges against NYK are not known. The ACCC declined to comment.
However, in March the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said it had jailed an executive of the company, Susumu Tanaka, for 15 months for his role in a price-fixing and bid-rigging conspiracy over international shipping of roll-on, roll-off cargo such as cars and trucks.
This followed NYK paying a US$59.4 million fine in December after pleading guilty over its involvement in the same conspiracy from 1997 until 2012.
Four companies, including NYK, pleaded guilty to participating in the RO-RO cartel and were fined a total of $230 million, the DoJ said. Eight executives were charged, with four, including Tanaka, jailed while the other four remain as "fugitives from justice".
The DoJ's latest scalp came last week when Norwegian line Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics pleaded guilty to price fixing and agreed to pay a $98.9 million fine.
In documents filed with the US District Court in Baltimore, Maryland, the DoJ said that at meetings of the cartel participants "discussed and exchanged prices for certain customer tenders so as not to undercut each other's prices".
Source : HKSG.