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[MELBOURNE] Australia has fined and convicted Japanese shipping firm Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK) for operating as a cartel in relation to the transport of vehicles into the country, its competition regulator said on Thursday.
The charges relate to the transportation of motor vehicles to Australia between 2009 and 2012, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commision (ACCC) said in a statement.
A new law in Australia criminalised cartel behaviour in 2009, although the activity had been going on since at least February 1997, the ACCC said. "The cartel ... 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," it said.
NYK was not immediately able to comment.
Australia's Federal Court has ordered NYK to pay a fine of A$25 million (S$27.06 million), the second-highest ever imposed by the regulator. It is the first successful prosecution under the criminal cartel provisions of a 2010 Act.
The penalty for cartel conduct under Australian competition law is the greater of A$10 million, triple the benefit attributed to the offence, or 10 per cent of the corporation's annual turnover in Australia.
NYK, which is capitalised at 360 billion yen (S$4.42 billion), entered a guilty plea on July 18, 2016, in the Federal Court.
The company had received a lesser fine due to its early guilty plea, contrition, and cooperation with investigators, Justice Wigney said.
An investigation into Japanese shipping company Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (K-Line), which was charged last November, is continuing, the ACCC said.