On 4 April 2014, the German authorities extradited an Italian national to the United States to face antitrust charges under the US Sherman Act. The extradition followed an order of 22 January 2014 from the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt (Higher Regional Court), in which that court authorised the extradition of the former senior executive of Parker ITR, Romano Pisciotti, for his alleged involvement in the marine hose cartel from 1999 to 2006.
The extradition comes at the request of the US authorities, which are continuing to investigate suspected bid-rigging and anti-competitive price agreements affecting the supply of marine hoses from 1986 until 2007. This conduct was also subject to fines imposed by the European Commission in January 2009, totalling € 131.51 million (see VBB on Competition Law, Volume 2009, No. 1, available at www.vbb.com).
In this context, the US authorities had charged Mr Pisciotti with joining and participating in the conspiracy and, since Mr Pisciotti had opted not to travel to the US to resolve the case, had placed him on the "Red Notice" list maintained by Interpol. On 17 June 2013, Mr Pisciotti was arrested at Frankfurt airport, where he was changing planes on his way back to Italy from Nigeria. In August 2013, the US authorities officially requested Germany to extradite Mr Pisciotti under the terms of the extradition treaty between the US and Germany.
Under that treaty, a person is to be extradited, if (subject to a number of other requirements) the person concerned has been charged in the requesting state with an extraditable offence, i.e., an offence subject to criminal penalties under the laws of both the US and Germany. Bid-rigging is a criminal offence in Germany under section 298 of the German Criminal Code (StGB) and in the US under section 1 of the US Sherman Act.
The Higher Regional Court authorised the extradition of Mr Pisciotti after consultation of the US authorities' extradition file. The Higher Regional Court found that the requirement of dual criminality was met, as Mr Pisciotti was suspected of having committed an offence punishable pursuant to section 298 StGB.
According to the file, Mr Pisciotti had between 1999 and 2006 been member of a group of competitors that agreed upon prices for rubber hoses in bids to oil-producing companies. According to the Higher Regional Court, it followed from the extradition file that these bids had been made in response to invitations to tender. Allegedly, the group members had decided at the beginning of each tendering procedure which company should be awarded the contract.
Mr Pisciotti was extradited on 4 April 2014 to stand trial in the US for the alleged bid-rigging. In the meantime, he has already pleaded guilty before a US court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and has been sentenced to pay a $50,000 fine and to serve two years in prison. Mr Pisciotti is however granted credit for the nine months of jail time he has already served on remand in Germany.
This case marks the first time a person has been successfully extradited to the US on the basis of their involvement in a cartel. The US authorities previously succeeded in securing the extradition of Ian Norris from the UK in connection with the carbon graphite cartel, but this extradition ultimately proceeded due to Mr Norris's participation in steps designed to obstruct the course of justice, rather than in the cartel itself (see VBB on Competition Law, Volume 2010, No. 3, available at www.vbb.com).
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