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In response to a request for a preliminary ruling, on April 10, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) published a judgment, ruling that the extradition to the US of an Italian citizen by Germany, where the citizen had been arrested, was in line with articles 18 and 21 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which prohibit discrimination on grounds of nationality and establish the right of free movement.

The citizen was extradited in 2014 for participating in a worldwide marine-hose cartel. Romano Pisciotti, of Italian nationality, was tried in the US for his participation in the cartel between 1999 and 2006. After being charged in the case, the US submitted a request for his arrest, and the German police arrested Mr. Pisciotti at Hamburg airport in June 2013, while on stopover on his way to Italy from Nigeria. After several unsuccessful calls for Mr. Pisciotti to be handed over, in March 2014, Germany authorized his extradition. He is the first person to be extradited in relation to a cartel case.

During the criminal procedure in the US, Mr. Pisciotti pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to two years of imprisonment and payment of a fine of $50,000. On March 17, 2014, after his extradition was authorized, Mr. Pisciotti filed an appeal with the Berlin Regional Civil and Criminal Court, claiming damages from the German state for authorizing his extradition. Mr. Pisciotti claimed that, as Germany has a prohibition on extraditing its own nationals under article 16.2 of its Fundamental Act (which establishes that “No German citizen can be extradited to another country”), its agreeing to extradite him to the US was a breach of the general non-discrimination principle and the right to free movement.

The Berlin court decided to refer the case to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling on whether an EU Member State breaches articles 18 and 21 TFUE when, basing its decision on constitutional rules, it treats differently the nationals of other EU Member States to its own nationals, given that it only authorizes the extradition of the nationals of other EU Member States.

Thus, the preliminary ruling focused on whether Germany could have acted in a way that was less damaging for the exercise of Mr. Pisciotti’s right to free movement. Basing its judgment on existing case law, the CJEU concluded that an EU Member State that welcomes an EU citizen on whom there is an extradition order is only obliged to inform the EU Member State of which the citizen is a national and, if that EU Member State requests it, the first EU Member State must deliver the citizen to the second EU Member State, thus avoiding the citizen’s risk of impunity.

As it was proved that the Italian authorities were informed of the situation and did not take any action, the CJEU considered that the extradition was in line with EU law.

The judgment is relevant in that it backs the extradition of an EU citizen from an EU Member State of which it is not a national to a non-EU state, but it is even more relevant considering that the extradition results from a breach of competition law. In our legal system, breaching competition law does not lead to imprisonment, while in the US it does; therefore, as can be seen in this judgment, European directors are not exempt from such consequences.

 

Click here to read the judgment.

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