Three Executives Convicted in Canadian Petrol Cartel

imagesOn 16 August 2013, Canada’s Competition Bureau announced the sentences for three individuals found guilty in March for conspiring to fix the price of petrol at the pump. The Bureau’s investigation into price-fixing of retail petrol in certain local markets in the province of Quebec was first made public in 2008. The three individuals were charged on 15 July 2010 and found guilty on 22 March 2013 after a two month trial before the Quebec Superior Court.

Yves Gosselin, an Irving employee, Michel Lagrandeur, an independent dealer under the Shell banner, and Linda Proulx an independent dealer under the Petro-Canada banner have each been ordered to pay CAD15,000. They have not been given custodial sentences. Another guilty verdict was entered on 9 August 2013 against Les Pétroles Global Inc. after a two week trial. The Ontario based company has yet to be sentenced by the court, but the Bureau has indicated that it will be looking for a fine of up to CAD10 million.

The latest verdicts take the total charged in the investigation to 39 individuals and 15 companies. 33 individuals and seven companies have either pleaded or been found guilty. Six people have been given terms of imprisonment totalling 54 months and fines of more than CAD3 million have been imposed. Several defendants have been ordered to make donations to charity rather than going to prison or paying a fine to government.

It is alleged that most of the gas retailers in the Sherbrooke, Magog, Victoriaville and Thetford Mines communities of Quebec participated in the cartel between 2004 and 2006. Charges were filed under the Competition Act after investigators with wiretaps leaned that gas retailers agreed through telephone calls the prices they would charge motorists at the pumps.

While most of the companies and individuals charged are associated with major oil companies including Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Petro-Canada, Irving Oil Corp. and Esso, the Bureau has stressed that the cartel was limited to the four markets in Quebec and that local operators were responsible for the price manipulation.

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About Michael O'Kane

Michael O’Kane is a partner and Head of the Business Crime team at leading UK firm Peters & Peters. Described as ‘first-rate’ (Legal 500 2012), he “draws glowing praise from commentators” (Chambers 2013) for handling the international aspects of business crime, including sanctions, extradition and mutual legal assistance. Called to the Bar in 1992 and prior to joining Peters & Peters he was a senior specialist prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service Headquarters(CPS). At CPS HQ he was a key member of a small specialist unit responsible for the prosecution of serious and high profile fraud, terrorist and special interest criminal matters including the Stansted Airport Afghan hijacking and the prosecution of Paul Burrell (Princess Diana’s butler). Michael joined Peters & Peters in 2002. He became a partner in May 2004, and Head of the Business Crime team in May 2009. Since joining Peters & Peters, Michael has dealt with a wide range of business crime matters. He has particular expertise in international sanctions, criminal cartels, extradition, corruption, mutual legal assistance, and FSA investigations. Described as“ an influential practitioner in fraud and regulatory work, so much so that he is top of the referral lists of many City firms for independent advice for directors” (The Lawyer’s Hot 100 2009), he was recognised as one of the UK’s most innovative lawyers in the 2011 FT Innovative Lawyer Awards and included in the list of the UK's leading lawyers in 'The International Who's Who of Asset Recovery 2012. In 2012 he was the winner of the Global Competition Review Article of the Year. Michael regularly appears on television and radio to discuss his specialist areas and he is the author of the leading textbook on the UK Criminal Cartel Offence “The Law of Criminal Cartels-Practice and Procedure” (Oxford University Press 2009). Recent/Current Sanctions Work • Representing 109 individuals and 12 companies subject to designation by the European Council under targeted measures imposed against Zimbabwe. This is the largest and most complex collective challenge to a sanctions listing ever brought before the European Court. • Acting for a former Egyptian Minister and his UK resident wife, challenging their designation by the European Council of Ministers under targeted measures brought against former members of the Egyptian Government. • Advising a company accused in a UN investigation report to have breached UN sanctions imposed in relation to Somalia. • Advising a UK company in relation to ongoing commercial relationships with an Iranian company listed under both EU and UN sanctions. • Advising an individual in relation to a UK investigation for alleging breaching nuclear export controls.

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