Morgan Crucible ex-chief executive denies price-fixing claims

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The Independent Online

A British businessman facing extradition to the US spent more than 11 years operating an international price-fixing cartel that defrauded customers, a court heard yesterday.

A British businessman facing extradition to the US spent more than 11 years operating an international price-fixing cartel that defrauded customers, a court heard yesterday.

Ian Norris, the former chief executive of the engineering group Morgan Crucible, appeared at Bow Street magistrates' court in London to fight extradition charges brought by the US, which wants him tried for price-fixing.

The retired 62-year-old is accused of setting prices for carbon products with competitors between 1989 and 2000. This is illegal in the US but because price-fixing was not an offence in the UK until 2003, the US has charged Mr Norris with conspiracy to defraud. This is a crime on both sides of the Atlantic, and to try to extradite Mr Norris, the US says price-fixing amounts to the same offence. Mr Norris denies seven counts of conspiracy to defraud and two of perverting the course of justice.

David Perry, for the prosecution, said by setting prices with rivals he was supposed to compete against, Mr Norris had defrauded his customers. "This was, in fact, dishonest behaviour - representing to the market you were competing against each other when, in fact, that was not the truth," he said.

The court heard the US investigated price-fixing allegations in 1999, resulting in fines for Morgan Crucible. Mr Perry said during the investigation, Mr Norris tried to hide evidence of the company's cartel, alleging that minutes of meetings between the competing companies were destroyed.

Alun Jones QC, for the defence, said Mr Norris could not be extradited on grounds of conspiracy to defraud because it was a totally different charge from the price-fixing allegations. "The US is trying to flex its muscles to extradite Mr Norris for conduct that has never been regarded as criminal in this country," he said.

The case continues.

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