Cutrales to Face Trial Over OJ Cartel

Ernie Neff Legal, Orange Juice

Law firm PGMBM reported it has secured a London High Court judgment that will result in a Brazilian orange juice (OJ) magnate facing trial over his participation in an illegal cartel. José Luis Cutrale and his son, José Luis Cutrale Jr., reportedly were part of an operation that substantially impacted the global market for the sale of OJ.

Brazilian orange growers are seeking damages which could run into the billions of pounds. PGMBM stated that the cartel suppressed the prices growers could sell oranges at, forcing thousands out of business and thousands more into financial ruin.

PGMBM, acting for the orange growers, successfully argued that the case against the Cutrales should proceed in England because of José Luis Cutrale Sr.’s extensive connections to the UK, including a London residence.

Pedro Martins, partner at PGMBM said, “This … is a step closer to justice for our clients. The impact of the Cutrale cartel has been devastating for them, and we are committed to seeking full redress. We represent clients who have been suicidal, depressed and who have taken drastic steps to escape this cartel, and we simply cannot ignore that. We are determined to help the victims of the Cutrales, and whilst the Cutrales attempted to persuade the High Court in London not to hear the case, they have failed. We will hold them accountable for the financial losses they have caused and for the social impact of the illegal cartel they operated.”

A report into the impact of the cartel found terrified farmers with one who admitted: “I had to tear down all the trees to automatically terminate a contract. I had to burn 70,000 trees to get out of the contract. I could only break the contract after I destroyed all my produce.”

José Luis Cutrale Sr. owns and runs Cutrale, one of the world’s largest processors and distributors of concentrated orange juice, with his family, including son José Luis Cutrale Jr., co-defendant in the case.

According to PGMBM, the Cutrales in 2016 admitted engaging in illegal, anti-competitive practices between 1999 and 2006 and paid an administrative fine of more than £70 million. In addition, alleged co-conspirators Louis Dreyfus, Cargill and Citrosuco also confessed to cartel practices, PGMBM stated.

Cutrale issued the following response on the matter: “PGMBM’s efforts are just a sophisticated, well-financed, but fruitless attempt to resurrect allegations that had already been heard in Brazil, the proper forum, and which have repeatedly been found not only to be time barred, but also lack any factual merit. The Brazilian antitrust regulatory authority CADE (Administrative Council for Economic Defense) conducted an extensive investigation over more than 17 years and did not find any evidence of a cartel. Neither has there been an admission of one by Sucocitrico Cutrale or any individuals. Mr. José Luis Cutrale Jr. intends to appeal and he is confident that the appeal will succeed. While we remain of the view that the English courts are not the appropriate forum for the claim against Mr. José Luis Cutrale, the court has ultimately found itself bound to hear the claim against him as a result of the procedural rules – this bears no relation to the merits and we remain confident that Mr. Cutrale will ultimately succeed in defeating the groundless claims against him.”

Sources: PGMBM, Cutrale

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