Australia's competition watchdog said on Monday that Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK) pleaded guilty to criminal cartel conduct in Australia's federal court.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said in a statement that the company pleaded guilty after the ACCC brought charges.
"This is the first criminal charge laid against a corporation under the criminal cartel provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act," ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in the statement.
"This matter relates to alleged cartel conduct in connection with the transportation of vehicles, including cars, trucks and buses, to Australia between July 2009 and September 2012."
NYK is one of the world’s largest shipping companies, with offices in Europe, Africa, East Asia, South Asia, China, Oceania (including Australia) and North and South America. It has over 33,000 employees and its headquarters is in Tokyo. It also operates an Australian subsidiary, NYK Line (Australia) Pty Ltd.
For corporations, the maximum fine for each criminal cartel offence will be the greater of:
• $10 million;
• three times the total benefits that have been obtained and are reasonably attributable to the commission of the offence;
• if the total value of the benefits cannot be determined,10 percent of the corporation’s annual turnover connected with Australia.
Jason Glynn, the general manager of corporate affairs for Nippon Yusen's Australian subsidiary, NYK Line (Australia) Pty Ltd, confirmed the guilty plea.
"NYK has co-operated fully with the ACCC during the course of this investigation. NYK will not make any further comment while this matter is before the courts," he said.
The matter is next scheduled for a directions hearing in the Federal Court on September 12, 2016.
The ACCC’s investigation into other alleged cartel participants is continuing.