The prosecution office of the state of São Paulo has created a special unit to fight cartel crimes. Announced by the Secretariat of Economic Law (SDE) yesterday, it is the first state-level criminal unit in Brazil with the specific purpose of enforcing cartel regulations.
"The creation of the unit is a milestone in the fight against cartels in Brazil," says Ana Paula Martinez, director of the competition division of the SDE.  "It will increase our cooperation with the criminal prosecutors and ensure more transparency and predictability in our leniency programme."
As well as being an administrative infringement, running a cartel is also a crime in Brazil, punishable by a fine or two to five years imprisonment.
Tito Amaral de Andrade, an antitrust partner at Machado, Meyer, Sendacz e Opice, says: "Criminal prosecution is a very important part of cartel investigation in many countries, most importantly the US. The creation of this special unit is a clear message to the Brazilian business community and shows that cartel investigation is a priority of this government and will be taken seriously."
Brazilian competition agencies determination to focus their resources on cartel fighting dates from 2003, when the SDE, as the chief investigative antitrust authority, started increasing its efforts to work with the federal police and public prosecutors to ensure cartelists face criminal liability.
These efforts have seen some success - there are presently more than 100 executives facing criminal proceedings in Brazil for alleged cartel offences, and 10 executives were condemned in 2006 and 2007 to serve jail terms of two-and-a-half years to five years.
(Global Competition Review 19.09.2008)
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