New Zealand MP calls foul play by Aussie-owned Countdown

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New Zealand MP calls foul play by Aussie-owned Countdown

Taking advantage of his parliamentary privilege, New Zealand MP Shane Jones caused a stir on the House of Representatives floor Wednesday, alleging blackmail, racketeering and extortion on the part of an Australian grocery store chain.shanejones

He said New Zealand firms have been left in fear of the Australian-owned Countdown, provoked by "a corporate culture that Tony Soprano would be very proud of."

"They are demanding from kiwi businesses payments, back-dated checks and recompense for the losses supermarkets assert they suffered last year. If they don’t pay these checks, they are being told, ‘no shelf space into the future,’" Jones said, addressing the floor this week.

"It’s not the fault of New Zealand producers that an Aussie-owned supermarket could not compete with our New Zealand-owned cooperative supermarket chain."

Jones said he would be filing a letter of complaint to the Commerce Commission directly after the speech to apply pressure and bring the alleged criminal practices to light.

The Commerce Commission confirmed to the National Business Review Thursday that it had received the complaint outlining Countdown's alleged behavior.

Horticulture New Zealand supported the call for a Commerce Commission investigation. The industry body, however, said it had not heard such allegations from any of its members in the fruit and vegetable sector.

"It is not always comfortable, but the allegations made by Mr Jones go way beyond a robust commercial relationship. These allegations need to be investigated by someone independent, like the Commerce Commission, and it needs to be done quickly," said Horticulture New Zealand chief executive, Peter Silcock.

"When you are a grower supplying a major customer you have to respond to their demands. But if their customers are engaging in practices that are illegal in this country, then that needs to be sorted out quickly."

Photo: Shane Jones speaking to Parliament Wednesday

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