Analysis
14 July 2018

US guilty plea not valid ne bis in idem defense

Bastille Day Newsletter 2018 - Enforcement / Court Decisions

 

The Vitol Case refers to the Oil for Food matter which enabled Iraq (under embargo) to sell oil in exchange for humanitarian supplies matter from 1993 to 2003. In the aftermaths of the unveiling of this scandal, the oil trading company Vitol was prosecuted in the United States for bribery. Vitol entered into a guilty-plea in New-York State court for “grand larceny” under New-York criminal law.

The company was also prosecuted in France for the same facts and claimed that the guilty plea shielded the company from further prosecution pursuant to the French principle ne bis in idem. In March 14, 2018, the French Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation) ruled that the ne bis in idem principle could not be considered as a valid argument for companies trying to avoid criminal proceedings in France after signing a guilty plea in the US. In this decision, the French Supreme Court ascertained a broad appreciation of its territorial jurisdiction in order to enhance the prosecution of international corruption.

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