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Currency cartel accused of rigging Australian-Vietnamese exchange rates

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https://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2019-04-11/vina-money-charged-with-colluding-to-rig-exchange-rate/10993212?pfmredir=sm.......

Currency cartel accused of rigging Australian-Vietnamese exchange rates

BY BUSINESS REPORTER DAVID CHAUUPDATED EARLIER TODAY AT 12:22AM
A bundle of Vietnamese currency
PHOTO 

It is estimated that $700 million in Australian currency is sent to Vietnam each year.

REUTERS/KHAM

Several individuals and a small business called Vina Money Transfer have been prosecuted for running a criminal cartel engaged in price-fixing.

Key points:

  • The charges against five individuals and Vina Money Transfer are the result of a joint ACCC-AFP investigation
  • The charges relate to almost a quarter of the money transferred to Vietnam each year, or about $175 million
  • The AFP and ACCC have been increasingly sharing information to expand their reach

Four men aged 30, 32, 58 and 63 and one woman aged 58 — who worked at competing Sydney and Melbourne money transfer businesses — will appear before the Melbourne Magistrates' Court today.

They are accused of rigging the Australian dollar to Vietnamese dong exchange rate and the transaction fees charged customers.

"Price fixing involves competitors agreeing on a price rather than competing fairly against one another," said Rod Sims, chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

"Such cartel behaviour cheats consumers, and does damage to other businesses and the economy as a whole."

Vina Money has several branches across Victoria (Footscray and Springvale) and New South Wales (Bankstown, Blacktown, Cabramatta, Hurstville).

'Big business'

Mr Sims said that transferring Australian currency to Vietnam is a "big business".

However, the ACCC and Australian Federal Police (AFP) would not reveal how much the defendants earned from their alleged criminal enterprise.

"Remittances from Australia to Vietnam — often by Vietnamese people living here, sending money back home — is about $700 million a year," he said.

"[The defendants'] alleged behaviour is extremely serious and relates to over two-thirds of all the number of money transfer transactions, and almost a quarter of the amount of money transferred, from Australia to Vietnam during the relevant period."

On that basis, 25 per cent of the $700 million (transferred from Australia to Vietnam each year) equates to $175 million each year.

The charges against the company and five individuals were the result of a joint investigation by the AFP and the ACCC, under the code name Operation Euporie.

Individuals who are found guilty of perpetrating criminal cartel offences can face a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment and fines of up to $420,000 per offence.

Mr Sims also confirmed the AFP and ACCC have been increasingly sharing more information with each other to expand their reach.

The case is expected to be transferred to the Federal Court, if the Magistrates' Court decides there is enough evidence to proceed.

POSTED YESTERDAY AT 11:36PM
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