Cartel charges dismissed in Fed jury trial

·1-min read

Cartel charges faced by a regional Victorian business have been dismissed after a verdict in the Federal Court's first jury trial.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission alleged Mildura-based family business Country Care Group engaged in cartel conduct in attempting to fix prices of rehabilitation and aged care products including beds, wheelchairs and walking frames.

Company founder Rob Hogan also had charges dropped.

The case was also the first criminal cartel prosecution of an individual and a wholly Australian company.

After a trial that began in March, jurors on Wednesday dismissed all charges.

Mr Hogan said the result was a resounding victory but took aim at the prosecution, claiming a witness against him was a "disgruntled individual who had a grudge against me".

The case has been a long-running one. Mr Hogan and his company were ordered to stand trial in 2018 and a trial was first listed in 2019 before being pushed back multiple times.

Mr Hogan called on the ACCC and investigators to be held to account for "failures" throughout the process, saying defence lawyers had uncovered significant untruths in witness statements which had been in the possession of prosecutors for years.

"It is a disgrace, but for us it's finally time to move on," he said.