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Hiswara Bunjamin & Tandjung (HBT) in association with Herbert Smith Freehills has helped Cheetham Garam Indonesia (Cheetham), the Indonesian subsidiary of Australia's largest producer and refiner of solar salt, in its successful defence against accusations of suspected cartel practices.
In 2015, Indonesia's competition watchdog, Komisi Pengawas Persaingan Usaha (KPPU), began investigating seven major salt producers, including Cheetham, alleging that they had engaged in cartel conduct that led to increases in the price of salt. The KPPU alleged that the producers discussed demand for salt, capacity and availability, and import barriers, culminating in a letter to the Government issued through a trade association requesting a relaxation of the import rules.
On 29 July this year, after a four-year investigation and several hearings, the KPPU announced that Cheetham and the other salt importers had not violated Indonesia’s competition law, and that the price fluctuations in 2015-2016 were not a result of an anti-competitive agreement.
The team advising Cheetham was led by HBT competition practice head Sakurayuki and disputes head Narendra Adiyasa, assisted by Randitya Adiguna, David Siagian and Ravi Hutomo Putra.
"The salt industry is well regulated in Indonesia, including salt imports," said Sakurayuki. "During the investigation, we established that Cheetham had complied with all applicable procedures for importing salt, and that there was no agreement involving Cheetham and the other parties who were investigated that supports the allegation that they were involved in a cartel."
"We are delighted that the KPPU has confirmed our position," said Narendra. "The KPPU has demonstrated its independence in adjudicating this case despite political pressure in the sensitive area of commodity prices."