Country Care cartel case moved to Melbourne

A LANDMARK case against a Sunraysia-based manufacturer of aged-care products will be heard in Melbourne after a magistrate ruled the Mildura Law Courts were not equipped to deal with the allegations.

Mildura’s Country Care Group Pty Ltd, its chief executive and owner Robert Hogan and former business development manager Cameron Harrison face charges relating to cartel conduct.

The alleged offences involve assisted technology products, such as beds, mattresses, wheelchairs and walking frames, produced by Country Care for the aged care and rehabilitation industry.

It is the first time an Australian corporation has been charged under the criminal cartel provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.

Prosecutors and lawyers for both Melbourne-based Harrison and Mildura man Hogan yesterday requested the next hearing take place in Melbourne, primarily because of the Mildura court’s inability to apply complex fraud protocol required during the hearing of the case.

Magistrate Nunzio La Rosa agreed a committal hearing in June should take place at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court, where it would be dealt with more “effectively and efficiently”.

The court also heard any eventual trial or plea hearing would be heard in the Federal Court at Melbourne.

The prosecution must serve a hand-up brief, including a statement of facts, by April 25.

Hogan said the company was cooperating with the ACCC and that he remained “entirely focused on the business”.

“It remains business as usual for Country Care and we are committed to continuing to service our customers uninterrupted,” he said.

An individual found guilty of cartel conduct faces up to 10 years jail and/or fines of up to $420,000 per offence and a financial penalty of up to $500,000 per civil breach.

Corporations face fines up to $10 million.

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