Ex-CEO behind waste cartel still working for firm

Miklos Bolza |

The ex-CEO of a Sydney waste firm caught price fixing in a criminal cartel still acts as a “consultant” with the company and is paid by his parents for his services.

Aussie Skips and former chief executive officer Emmanuel Roussakis have pleaded guilty to entering a cartel with Bingo Industries setting the price of demolition waste services in Sydney.

In a sentence hearing on Monday, the Federal Court heard that while there had been some changes at Aussie Skips, including bringing in a new management structure and compliance policy, Roussakis still attended meetings with the firm’s bosses and was paid for his advice.

Aussie Skips chief financial officer Ana Sevo said Roussakis had stepped down from his role of CEO about a year ago, months after an investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission led to charges against him and his company.

Ms Sevo said with Roussakis no longer at the helm, crucial company decisions were made by herself, general manager Nancy Phillips and operations manager Mitchell Palmer.

However, he still “popped in and out” of management meetings, answering questions and offering advice on matters such as pricing, Ms Sevo said.

At the time of the offences in 2019, Roussakis had “complete and solitary control” over the rates charged, the court was told.

Currently, nothing had been said to the former-CEO not to speak to customers but it was “implied” that he could not speak to competitors, she added.

“Implied by whom?” asked crown prosecutor Philip Strickland SC.

“Implied by these proceedings,” said Ms Sevo.

An anti-collusion and bribery policy had finally been brought in at the firm in April this year, about two months after the guilty pleas were made.

Staff had not yet received instructions regarding Australian law and price fixing but a formal training day was “coming up,” Ms Sevo said.

The Aussie companies and parent company ELG Transport are owned by Roussakis’ parents Nick and Sandra. 

Ms Sevo told the court that Aussie was paid a “lump sum” from ELG for services that Roussakis and his brothers offered to the company.

She could not say what share of this money went to the former-CEO himself, however.

Aussie Skips is arguing for a lower fine, saying it does not have the capacity to pay a larger penalty. 

While external accountant Maurizio Zappacosta gave evidence regarding Aussie’s financial position on Monday, a court order prohibits publication of the details.

At the time the cartel agreement was made in mid-2019, the Queensland government had brought in a levy on all waste going to landfills within the state.

Mr Palmer told the court that Bingo lobbied the state government for these levies as it would benefit from increased prices over the border as the owner of two large landfills in NSW.

At the time, it had acquired Dial-a-Dump for more than $557 million. 

As part of this purchase, Bingo obtained the largest landfill in the southern hemisphere in Eastern Creek.

Bingo and its former managing director and chief executive Daniel Tartak were sentenced in March with the Federal Court yet to hand down its decision.

A third company alleged to have been part of the cartel, Skips Bin Services, has not been charged.

In investigating cartels, the ACCC can choose to provide immunity to current or past cartel members that come forward and co-operate with authorities.

For corporations, the maximum fine available for cartel breaches is at least $10 million. Individuals convicted face potential maximum jail time of 10 years and fines of up to $440,000.

The hearing with Justice Michael Wigney continues on Tuesday.