UPDATE 1-U.S. court revives EU money laundering case vs RJ Reynolds
(Adds details from decision, case history, comments, first-quarter results, byline)
By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK, April 23 (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court has revived a European Union lawsuit accusing R.J. Reynolds of running a global money-laundering scheme with organized crime groups that involved the smuggling of drugs and cigarettes.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said a lower court judge erred in finding that a U.S. anti-racketeering law known as RICO did not cover foreign conduct, barring claims by France, Germany, Italy and 23 other European countries.
In a lawsuit begun in 2002, the EU had sued RJ Reynolds and related entities for unspecified damages, accusing them of running a decade-long scheme involving Colombian and Russian crime syndicates that hurt economies and legitimate marketplaces, and deprived member nations of tax revenue.
RJ Reynolds is now part of Reynolds American Inc, the 2nd-largest U.S. tobacco company, whose cigarette brands include Camel and Pall Mall.
Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, Circuit Judge Pierre Leval said the U.S. Congress "unmistakably" intended RICO to cover conduct such as RJ Reynolds' alleged wrongdoing.
He said this was because some of the criminal laws underlying RICO necessarily involve foreign conduct, and that violating those laws can provide a basis for a finding of "racketeering activity" that is punishable under RICO.
"Indeed, it is hard to imagine why Congress would incorporate these statutes as RICO predicates if RICO could never have extraterritorial application," he wrote. RICO stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations. Continuación...