MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Visy Industries Holdings, the world's largest privately held paper and packaging manufacturer, was fined a record 36 million Australian dollars (US$32 million; euro23 million) Friday for its part in the worst price-fixing deal ever exposed in Australia.
Australia's third-richest man, Richard Pratt, admitted in the Federal Court last month that his company had formed an illegal cartel with rival Amcor to inflate prices in Australia's A$2 billion (US$1.8 billion; euro1.3 billion) a year cardboard packaging market from 2000 until 2004.
Judge Peter Heerey accepted the regulator Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's submission that Visy be fined a A$36 million (US$32 million; euro23 million) for breaking competition laws.
''The penalties ordered today are more than twice the highest penalty previously ordered for cartel conduct,'' Heerey told the court. ''This was the worst cartel to come before the courts in the 30-plus years in which such conduct has been illegal in Australia.''
Former Visy executives Harry Debney and Rod Carroll were fined A$1.5 million (US$1.4 million; euro953,000) and A$500,000 (US$458,000; euro318,000) respectively for their part.
Pratt, 73, who built a A$5 billion (US$3.5 billion; euro3.2 billion) fortune on cardboard, did not attend court.
The judge said Pratt was not personally fined because he was indirectly effected by his company's fine.
Amcor has won immunity from charges because it blew the whistle on the secret deal.