[DEBATE] : UK - Lords bar extradition of cartel suspect
Riaz K Tayob
riazt at iafrica.com
Thu Mar 13 08:29:09 GMT 2008
The despotism of monopolies...
Financial Times FT.com
Lords bar extradition of cartel suspect
By Megan Murphy and Michael Peel
Published: March 12 2008 12:44 | Last updated: March 12 2008 12:44
The House of Lords has delivered a stinging blow to US efforts to crack
down on international cartels by ruling that a British executive cannot
be extradited to Pennsylvania for alleged price-fixing during the 1990s.
The decision in the long-running case of Ian Norris, the former chief
executive of Morgan Crucible, is likely to safeguard dozens of other
executives from extradition over long-dormant cartels in industries
ranging from chemicals to art auctions.
The Law Lords unanimously ruled that while Mr Norris could still face
extradition over allegations that he tried to obstruct a US federal
investigation, he should not be sent abroad to stand trial on
price-fixing charges when cartel activity was not specifically
criminalised in the UK until 2003.
Under Britain’s contentious extradition arrangements with the US,
suspects can be extradited only for conduct that is a crime in both
jurisdictions at the time it was committed. Mr Norris is charged with
participating in a global cartel on carbon products between 1989 and 2000.
As the UK had no specific anti-cartel offence until the 2002 Enterprise
Act, US prosecutors had sought to classify Mr Norris’s alleged conduct
as the English common law offence of conspiracy to defraud.
But the Law Lords ruled that while certain types of price-fixing
behaviour – such as explicitly agreeing to deceive customers – could
constitute fraud, Mr Norris was not charged with any “aggravating” conduct.
The landmark decision further prolongs a five-year legal battle between
Mr Norris and US competition authorities, which have identified the
former Morgan Crucible executive as one of their top targets.
Mr Norris would have been the first foreigner extradited to the US on
While the ruling will not substantially affect price-fixing prosecutions
concerning conduct that transpired after the introduction of the
Enterprise Act, lawyers said it delivered a strong message that there
would be barriers to extradition requests.
US and UK prosecutors are considering bringing criminal charges against
individuals involved in a transatlantic fuel surcharges cartel admitted
last year by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
Jo Rickards, a partner at Peters & Peters, a law firm, said: “This
shakes the long-held perception of the [US] Department of Justice as
being all-powerful in the area of global enforcement of anti-competitive
Mr Norris’s case will return to a magistrates’ court for a review of
whether extraditing him on the obstruction of justice charges – which
include document destruction and witness tampering – would violate his
human rights, given that the main allegations against him have been
Mr Norris’s lawyers vowed to continue to fight the case “every step of
the way”, possibly delaying a final ruling for several years.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008
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© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2008.
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