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BFCSA: Vietnamese bank implicated in Australian money transfer cartel

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Vietnamese bank implicated in Australian money transfer cartel

Australian Financial Review Apr 11, 2019 9.10am

Misa Han, James Fernyhough


Major Vietnamese bank Sacombank has been implicated in an exchange rate fixing case that saw allegations of cartel behaviour brought against three Australian money transfer companies.

On Thursday five people appeared before the Melbourne Magistrates Court charged with allegedly fixing the exchange rate for the Australian dollar and Vietnamese dong.

While Vietnamese bank Sacombank was not named in the charges, court documents released late on Thursday contained allegations from the Australian Federal Policy that the bank had encouraged the three companies to fix exchange rates.

The charges were the result of a five-year joint investigation by the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the alleged behaviour was "extremely serious" and related to almost a quarter of the amount of money transferred from Australia to Vietnam between 2011 and 2016.

During this period it is estimated about $700 million a year was sent from Australia to Vietnam.

Court documents showed the case involved three money transfer companies, Vina Money Transfer, Hong Vina Fast Money and Hai Ha Money Transfer, though only Vina was charged.

It is alleged the three companies entered into a contract that contained a "cartel provision", which the charge sheet described as "a provision that had the purpose or was likely to have the effect of directly or indirectly fixing, controlling or maintaining" exchange rates among companies that otherwise would have been competitors.

Price fixing is illegal and attracts penalties of up to 10 years in jail.

In documents released on Thursday, the AFP alleges Sacombank contacted the three companies between 2011 and 2012, "urging them to agree to matching exchange rates rather than compete with each other".

It alleges the three companies made illegal contacts, arrangements or understandings that "to their knowledge contained a cartel provision, being a price fixing provision, to apply matching exchange rates for the remittance of money from Australia to Vietnam".

Three men from Sydney, Van, Jamie and Toy Le, aged 58, 32 and 30, 58-year-old woman Thi Nguyen, and 63-year-old man Khai Tran, appeared before the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on Thursday, where the judge set the committal mention for July 18.

The three members of the Le family had their bail extended to that date,

Mr Sims said: “Money transfers are an important aspect of international trade and travel and are also used by migrants sending money back home.

“Price fixing involves competitors agreeing on a price rather than competing fairly against one another. Such cartel behaviour cheats consumers, and does damage to other businesses and the economy as a whole,” he said.

Separately ACCC is pursuing a criminal cartel case against Citi, Deutsche Bank and ANZ senior executives.

According to the company website Vina has four branches in Sydney's Bankstown, Blacktown, Cabramatta and Hurstville and two branches in Melbourne's Footscray and Springvale.

“This has been a comprehensive investigation between the AFP and the ACCC, one of the first conducted by our two agencies,” Australian Federal Police detective sergeant Jarrod Ragg said.

“The alleged criminal conduct occurred over an extensive period of time and involves allegations of significant anti-competition cartel conduct. This has been a long-term joint investigation that has successfully resolved through the laying of complex charges that will be heard in the Federal Court.”


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