John Fingleton, the new Chief Executive of theOFT, has revealed that the first criminal cartel case in the UK is likely to be in full swing in about two years. The cartel offence makes participation in a cartel a criminal offence, carries a maximum prison sentence of five years. The first employment by the competition watchdog of this kind of heavy artillery is likely to create shockwaves through corporate Britain. The comments made by the Chief Executive will come as a useful reminder of the current enforcement climate and might just give shrewd companies the extra time needed to get their competition compliance under control. Offences committed prior to June 2003 can not be punished under the new offence. However, any cartel involvement following that date can be. It has been hinted that the ongoing bid rigging scandal in the construction industry might be a possible contender for criminal prosecution.

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