A retired Irish businessman has been found guilty of participating in an Irish oil cartel in one of the first cases of its kind in Europe. JP Lambe has been given a six month suspended sentence and ordered by Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to pay a fine of 15,000 Euros.
The case attracted a great deal of media attention due to the scale of the cartel in question. Distribution companies who were supposed to be in competition came together under a trade association called the Connacht Oil Promotion Federation. Members of the federation entered into agreements to fix household oil prices at an estimated cost to the public of 4.4 million Euros per year. Prices were estimated to be up to 10% higher than they would otherwise have been.
Mr Lambe held an unpaid and part-time position as chairman of the federation that agreed to fix prices. He was responsible for arranging meetings, taking minutes and arbitrating disputes between members. It was discovered in the course of the investigation that a large number of distributors had taken part in the cartel, and inducements had been used to entice those distributors who refused to join.
The sentencing judge found that Mr Lambe's 'talent, acumen and knowledge of this kind of distortion' were critical to the success of the scheme. It was the pivotal role attributed to the guilty businessman which lead to the hefty sentence imposed.