A fix that can have a serious outcome

Where I’m from, man, there’s only a couple of things you can be, and being part of a cartel is one of them. A lot of people wanna get involved in the cartels and that. Honestly, there are a lot of people who will look up to me.”

So speaks one Rosalio Reta, aged 20, from his cell in Laredo jail, Texas. By the age of 13 he was an assassin for one of Mexico’s drug cartels. “It’s a job man. You gotta do something for a living.”

While cartels in the UK context tend to involve legitimate businesses rather than drug barons, they are still illegal. However, in difficult times, people in the supply chain might be more tempted to fall into a cartel – even unwittingly. This can impact on the business and individual employees, not just the directors and owners.

Trade cartels are agreements to fix prices, limit supply, share a market or otherwise rig a bid. They are usually secret of course but it is surprising how many have been discovered because of a careless email.

Individuals are liable to prosecution under the Enterprise Act (would you want a jury weighing up whether a deal you had done was ‘dishonest’?), and turning a blind eye to what others who report to you are doing can still count as being dishonest.

Individuals risk five years in prison or unlimited fines on conviction; in 2008 three individuals working in the marine hoses market were given sentences of between 20 months and two and a half years imprisonment, plus confiscation orders for cartel offences.

There is no minimum threshold in monetary terms before this offence kicks in. Admittedly the Office of Fair Trading uses its resources to catch the bigger fish.

A bit different from life on the Tex Mex border, but those are the rules.

copy; S Calnan 2009

For more information contact Sebastian Calnan at Calnan Cox on 01604 882287 or visit www.calnancox.co.uk.

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