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Monday, June 17, 2024 | Back issues
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EU’s Smuggling Claims Taken Up by High Court

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Supreme Court agreed Thursday to decide the fate of the EU's lawsuit against R.J. Reynolds, claiming that the tobacco giant runs a drug-smuggling ring.

The European Community, a group with 28 member states since 2013, has been trying to get the case off the ground in New York for more than a decade.

In the latest iteration of the lawsuit, the community alleges that officials with RJR Nabisco executives bribed Colombian border guards, misled U.S. customs officials and shipped cigarettes through Panama to exploit secrecy laws that shield illicit dealings from government oversight.

When U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis dismissed the case in 2009, he decried the case as "a structureless morass of allegations, devoid of any sequential description of events."

"Nothing in plaintiffs' complaint even remotely suggests that defendants had any hand in the planning, orders, or 'overall corporate policy' of the drug smuggling, currency swap, or currency purchase steps," Garaufis wrote at the time. "In fact, the complaint very clearly and repeatedly articulates that the 'overall corporate policy' regarding these steps originates with organized criminal organizations in Europe and South America."

The dismissal nevertheless centered more upon procedural grounds than the merits.

Garaufis ruled that the European Community lacked standing to accuse R.J. Reynolds of violating U.S. anti-racketeering law because the RICO statute could not be applied outside the United States.

A three-judge panel with the Second Circuit reversed last year, however, leaning on two subclauses of the law that apply only to conduct abroad.

This year, the court voted 8-5 against rehearing the case en banc.

In taking up the case Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court did not issue any comment, as is its custom.

The order does grant leave for the Washington Legal Foundation to file a brief as amicus curiae.

It also notes that Justice Sonia Sotomayor took no part in the consideration or decision of this motion and this petition.

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