Squire Patton Boggs has won a major victory in the EU General Court for its long-time client Frucona Košice. The Court has overturned the European Commission’s decision to block Slovak Republic aid to alcoholic spirits company Frucona Košice. The European Commission had previously found a write-off of tax debt to be incompatible with EU state-aid rules.
The case dates back to a tax settlement between Frucona Košice and the local tax office in October 2004. A complaint was lodged with the Commission alleging unlawful state aid granted to the Frucona Košice. The Commission’s original decision was appealed by the Squire Patton Boggs team up to the Court of Justice, who ruled in Frucona’s favor but sent the decision back to the General Court for a further assessment. Before the results of this review were reached, the Commission adopted a new decision that sought to correct the errors identified by the European Court of Justice. The Squire Patton Boggs team not only appealed the new decision, but also sought to obtain injunctions preventing the Commission from enforcing it before the local courts.
The Court has now ruled that the new decision should be annulled. The Commission was ordered to cover its own costs as well as those of Frucona Košice, including any costs incurred in connection with the proceedings for interim measures.
Mark Botti, Global Co-Chair of the Competition & Antitrust Practice, said: “Our European team has had a long legal journey to protect the interests of our client, Frucona Košice. Our practice continues to demonstrate not only experience in EU state aid, but also in the FMCG and related industries. We look forward to continuing to represent the interests of our clients, whether in Brussels or elsewhere in the world.”
The Squire Patton Boggs legal team on the case was led by partners Brian Hartnett, Global Co-Chair of the Competition & Antitrust Practice, and Oliver Geiss, both in Brussels, supported by Will Sparks and Anthony Bochon. In the firm’s Bratislava office, overseeing the work in the Slovak Republic, the team was led with Tatiana Prokopova with support from Lenka Abelovska and Jakub Kamenicky. Frucona Košice is a longtime client of the Lubos Tichy of the Prague, Czech Republic, office.