Criminal cartel charges laid against pharmaceutical ingredient company and its former export manager

1 December 2020

Alkaloids of Australia Pty Ltd and its former export manager, Christopher Kenneth Joyce, have each been charged with 33 criminal cartel offences, contrary to the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, formerly the Trade Practices Act 1974, following a criminal investigation by the ACCC.

The matters will be prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP).

Alkaloids of Australia produces and supplies the active pharmaceutical ingredient SNBB (scopolamine N-butylbromide, also known as hyoscine butylbromide), which is the active pharmaceutical ingredient in antispasmodic medications taken to relieve stomach pain and bowel cramps.

The ACCC alleges that Alkaloids of Australia and other overseas suppliers of SNBB made and gave effect to arrangements to fix prices, restrict supply, allocate customers and/or geographical markets, and/or to rig bids for the supply of SNBB to international manufacturers of generic antispasmodic medications.

The allegations extend over a period of almost 10 years, beginning on 24 July 2009, when criminal cartel laws came into force in Australia.

“Cartel conduct, such as price fixing, market and customer allocation, and bid rigging, is a very serious breach of the law,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“The specific purpose of most cartels is to increase the profits of the cartel members by agreeing to act together instead of competing with each other.”

“We are committed to pursuing cartel conduct allegations, in order to protect businesses and consumers from the economic harm of such conduct,” Mr Sims said.

The matter is listed in the Downing Centre Local Court on 19 January 2021.

Background

Alkaloids of Australia is a company which produces active pharmaceutical ingredients, based in Queensland and NSW.

SNBB is manufactured from the Duboisia plant, which is native to Australia. Duboisia plants are grown commercially for the pharmaceutical industry in and around Kingaroy in Queensland. SNBB is produced in Australia and exported for use in antispasmodic medications. The medications are then imported into Australia as a final product.

Note to editors

The ACCC investigates cartel conduct, manages the immunity process and, in respect of civil cartel contraventions, takes proceedings in the Federal Court.

The CDPP is responsible for prosecuting criminal cartel offences in accordance with the Prosecution Policy of the Commonwealth. The ACCC refers serious cartel conduct to the CDPP for consideration of prosecution in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding between the CDPP and the ACCC regarding Serious Cartel Conduct.

For corporations, the maximum fine for each criminal cartel offence is the greater of:

  • $10 million
  • three times the total benefits that have been obtained and are reasonably attributable to the commission of the offence, or
  • if the total value of the benefits cannot be determined, 10 per cent of the corporation’s annual turnover connected with Australia.

An individual convicted of a criminal cartel offence may be sentenced to up to 10 years’ imprisonment or fined up to $420,000, or both.

Anyone with information about cartel conduct is urged to call the ACCC Cartel Hotline on (02) 9230 3894.

ACCC Infocentre: 

Use this form to make a general enquiry.

Media enquiries: 
Media team - 1300 138 917

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