Australia: Do not pass go, do not collect 200 VND: Federal Court of Australia imposes first ever prison sentences for cartel conduct

The Federal Court of Australia (“FCA”) recently handed down prison sentences to four individuals who were found to have engaged in cartel conduct. This is the first time that prison sentences have been imposed in connection with breaches of Australia’s criminal cartel laws.

Background

Following an investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (“ACCC”) and the Australian Federal Police, in April 2019 the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions charged Vina Money Transfer Pty Ltd (“Vina Money”) and five individuals with cartel conduct in contravention of s 44ZZRG (then in force) of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) (“CCA”).

The cartel was alleged to involve Vina Money, a money transfer business, and two of its competitors (Tin Vuong Pty Ltd and Eastern & Allied Pty Ltd) communicating by a series of emails, text messages and phones calls to fix the exchange rate for Australian dollars to Vietnamese Dong as well as agreeing to apply or cease certain fee discounts on money remittances to Vietnam.

The ACCC Chair during the investigation, Mr Rod Sims, commented that the conduct of the defendants was “extremely serious and relates to over two thirds of all the number of money transfer transactions, and almost a quarter of the amount of money transferred, from Australia to Vietnam during the relevant period” and noted that the World Bank estimated that in the period between 2011 and 2016, remittances from Australia to Vietnam totalled about $700 million per year.

Proceedings

Four of the charged individuals (who were either directors or employees of Vina Money or its competitors were) pleaded guilty to being knowingly concerned in the cartel in breach of s 79(1) of the CCA.

At…

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