On 4 April 2014, the US Department of Justice announced the successful extradition from Germany of Italian, Romano Pisciotti, for the criminal cartel offence under section 1 of the Sherman Act, arising from his alleged role in the long-running global marine hose investigation. This constitutes the first ever successful extradition of a defendant on a criminal antitrust charge.
Pisciotti, a former executive with Parker ITR Srl, a marine hose manufacturer headquartered in Veniano, Italy, was arrested in Germany on 17 June 2013 and arrived in Miami on 3 April 2014. He made his initial appearance on 4 April 2014 in the U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale.
The marine hose investigation became public in June 2007 with the arrest of eight foreign executives, while attending the annual industry trade fair in Houston, Texas. All subsequently pleaded guilty and received varying terms of imprisonment. In 2008, the ninth defendant, a former Bridgestone manager, pleaded guilty to an FCPA violation and was sentenced to two years imprisonment.
Marine hose is a flexible rubber hose used to transfer oil between tankers and storage facilities. According to the Department of Justice, the conspiracy began at least as early as 1999 and continued until at least May 2007. Pisciotti was charged with joining and participating in the conspiracy from at least 1999 until at least November 2006. According to an indictment dated 26 August 2010, Pisciotti carried out the conspiracy by agreeing to allocate shares of the marine hose market among the conspirators. The conspiracy included an agreement not to compete for customers with other marine hose sellers, either by not submitting prices or bids or by submitting intentionally high prices or bids, all in accordance with the agreements reached among the conspiring companies.
To date, five companies, including Parker ITR; Bridgestone Corp. of Japan; Manuli SPa of Italy’s Florida subsidiary; Trelleborg of France; and Dunlop Marine and Oil Ltd, have pleaded guilty in the US.
Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division said that “This first of its kind extradition on an antitrust charge allows the department to bring an alleged price fixer to the United States to face charges of participating in a worldwide conspiracy. This marks a significant step forward in our ongoing efforts to work with our international antitrust colleagues to ensure that those who seek to subvert U.S. law are brought to justice.”
Previously, the most high profile attempt at extraditing on an antitrust charge had been the US request for UK national, Iain Norris. In March 2008, the House of Lords ruled that the alleged conduct from 1989-2000, did not amount to a criminal offence in the UK at that time as the UK did not introduce the cartel offence until 2003.