Former export manager of pharmaceutical ingredient company pleads guilty to criminal cartel charges

ACCC

Christopher Kenneth Joyce, the former export manager of pharmaceutical ingredient company Alkaloids of Australia Pty Ltd, has today pleaded guilty to criminal cartel conduct in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court.

Following an ACCC investigation and referral to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP), on 1 December 2020 Alkaloids of Australia and Christopher Joyce were charged with criminal cartel offences under the Competition and Consumer Act, formerly called the Trade Practices Act.

Alkaloids of Australia produces and supplies SNBB (scopolamine N-butylbromide), which is an active pharmaceutical ingredient in antispasmodic medications.

Earlier today, Christopher Joyce pleaded guilty to three charges, and admitted his guilt in respect of seven further offences, relating to his conduct involving price fixing, bid rigging and market allocation cartel arrangements between Alkaloids of Australia and other overseas SNBB suppliers.

The price fixing charges to which Christopher Joyce has pleaded guilty extend over a period of about eight years from July 2009, when criminal cartel laws came into force in Australia.

“This is the first guilty plea by an individual to criminal cartel conduct under the criminal cartel laws,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

Christopher Joyce has been committed to the Federal Court of Australia for sentence, and the matter is next listed for a case management hearing on 10 November 2021.

The proceedings against Alkaloids of Australia are continuing.

Alkaloids of Australia is yet to enter pleas to the criminal cartel charges it is facing. That matter is listed in the Downing Centre Local Court on 9 November 2021.

As these matters are currently before the court, the ACCC will not be providing further comment at this time.

Background

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

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

SNBB is manufactured from the Duboisia plant, which is native to Australia. Duboisia plants are grown commercially in and around Kingaroy in Queensland for the pharmaceutical industry.

SNBB is produced in Australia and the medications are then imported into Australia as a final product.

Note

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.

An individual convicted of a criminal cartel offence may be sentenced to up to 10 years’ imprisonment or fined up to $444,000, or both.

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

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