On 31 May 2017, the Central Criminal Court handed down judgment in a bid-rigging case in the carpets and flooring industry.
The case relates to bid-rigging by Aston Carpets and Flooring (“ACF”) and Carpet Centre Contracts (“CCC”) in relation to major flooring contracts between 2012 and 2013. The case was instigated following a tip-off from a whistleblower to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission ( the “CCPC”) in 2012. The CCPC and the Garda Bureau of Fraud subsequently carried out raids on the premises of both ACF and CCC. In 2013, David Radburn, Director of CCC, made an application to the CCPC under its cartel immunity programme and he received immunity from prosecution in return for the evidence he provided.
The Central Criminal Court held that ACF and its Managing Director, Brendan Smith, had indirectly fixed prices of carpets and flooring in breach of the provisions of the Competition Act 2002, as amended.
The Court found that Mr Smith of ACF and Mr Radburn of CCC were engaged in market sharing by over-bidding on alternate tenders. The parties were found to have been in regular contact between 2011 and 2013 in order to rig the outcome of lucrative procurement contracts. Customers affected included Google, Paypal and MasterCard.
In addition, Mr Smith was found guilty of impeding a criminal investigation as during a raid he had telephoned Mr Radburn advising him to destroy evidence.
ACF was fined €10,000 while Mr Smith was fined €7,500 and given a three month suspended sentence. He was also disqualified from acting as a company director for a period of five years in accordance with the Companies Act 2014.
Contributed by Sheila Tormey
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