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Norwegian shipping company pleads guilty to participation in a cartel.

Editorial Staff

Norwegian-based, global, shipping company Wallenius Wilhelmsen Ocean AS (WWO) has pleaded guilty in the Australian Federal Court to criminal cartel conduct in a prosecution brought by the Australia on evidence obtained by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

After an investigation by the Commission, on 23 August 2019 the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) charged WWO with cartel conduct regarding the transport of vehicles, including cars, lorries and buses, to Australia between June 2011 and July 2012.

The case, as the wording of the original press release gives away (it uses words such as "trucks" and "transportation") is mounted in conjunction with a case brought in the USA.

Two other defendants have already been convicted of involvement in the same cartel: Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK) in August 2017 and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd (K-Line) in August 2019 .

The cartel operated from at least February 1997 and affected vehicles transported to Australia by NYK and other shipping lines from locations in Asia, the US and Europe on behalf of major car manufacturers including Nissan, Suzuki, Honda, Toyota and Mazda.

In 2017, NYK was fined AUD25 million. Justice Wigney stated that the fine “incorporates a global discount of 50% for NYK’s early plea of guilty and past and future assistance and cooperation, together with the contrition inherent in the early plea and cooperation meaning that, but for the early plea and past and future cooperation, the fine would have been AUD50 million”.

In 2019, K-Line was fined AUD34.5 million. K-Line’s conduct was punishable by a maximum penalty of AUD100 million, based on 10 per cent of K-Line’s agreed annual turnover relating to Australian business activities in the 12 months prior to the commencement of the offence. The Court also allowed for a discount of 28% for K-Line’s early guilty plea and for their level of assistance and cooperation. The Court considered these elements as signs of contrition, even though it took almost two years after the NYK sentencing to reach the same position. Justice Wigney held that without K-Line’s early guilty plea and cooperation, K-Line would have been fined AUD48 million.

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