Citi, Deutsche Bank, ANZ committed for trial in Australian criminal cartel case

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(Reuters) – Australia’s competition regulator on Tuesday said Citigroup Inc and Deutsche Bank AG have been committed to the Australian Federal Court for trial on criminal cartel charges in the country’s biggest white collar criminal case.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has accused the investment banks of colluding over a A$2.5 billion ($1.8 billion) 2015 share issue to withhold unsold shares and keep the stock price from falling.

Their client, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd which conducted the share issue, has also been committed to the court for trial, along with six other senior banking executives from the lenders’ staff and former staff.

The development comes after a lower court in Sydney in August declined a prosecution request to delay proceedings, helping speed up the case that had been crawling through the court since the charges were laid in mid-2018.

“As this matter involves criminal charges, we will not be commenting further at this time,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said in a statement.

Citi in a statement maintained that it denied the allegations, while Deutsche Bank said it had entered a not guilty plea and would defend the charges. ANZ declined to comment.

The case is being closely watched by financial markets participants around the world because it could influence how capital raisings are conducted.

For companies, each criminal cartel charge could mean a fine of up to A$10 million ($7.42 million) or three times the amount the company benefited from the actions in question, whichever is greater.

Individuals accused may be sentenced to up to 10 years’ imprisonment or fined up to A$420,000, or both.

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