Estonia / Supreme Court / 1-17-4924/15 H.K. v the Prosecutors office

Key facts of the case: 

It was suspected that H.K. was guilty of money laundering, pursuant Article 394 section 2 subsection 3 of the Penal Code; these proceedings are ongoing. Information for this suspicion was partially drawn from a Finnish court decision. The Finnish district Court in Helsinki found on 22 January 2016 that H.K. is not guilty of any of the three accusations brought forward by the Finnish prosecutor, none of which was money laundering. The Finnish prosecutor`s office dropped the first accusation (granting consumer credit without required registration), two following accusations (marketing offence and illegally granting consumer credit) were found to be expired. Nevertheless, the court established that H.K. received through his illegal activity criminal profit in the amount of 3'557'574 €. Based on this information from the Finnish decision, the Estonian Public Prosecutor started criminal proceedings against H.K., for money laundering and with reference to article 142 section 1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure initiated extended confiscation of assets acquired by the criminal offence, in the amount of 108'150 €. This amount was confiscated from H.K. relating to the Finnish court proceedings in 2013 and arrested already by Finnish court.

H.K. did not agree with the extended confiscation and claimed that ongoing money laundering suspicion against him violates the ne bis in idem principle, as he is being tried the second time for the same offence; the first trial for the same offence took in his opinion place in Finland.

The Estonian Public Prosecutors office, however, finds that H.K.´s case in Finland concerned a different offence and was based on different facts and did not deal with the money laundering offence. Nevertheless, the judgment of the Finish court included evidence of money laundering; this resulted in criminal proceedings that are currently ongoing. Therefore, the Public Prosecutor found that extended confiscation was legal and it does not violate the ne bis in idem principle.

Lower levels of Estonian courts found that the extended confiscation was justified. The Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts and stated that the issue of the ne bis in idem relating to the money laundering offence would be ascertained once the criminal proceedings are completed.

Outcome of the case: 

The Supreme Court found that the extended arrest of assets did not violate the ne bis in idem principle and was in accordance both with the fundamental rights as well as with the EU law and corresponds to the established case-law of the European Court of Human Rights as well as the practice of the CJEU.

Paragraphs referring to EU Charter: 

32. Principle that no one may be prosecuted for a second time for an act in respect of which he or she has been the subject of a final conviction or acquittal (ne bis in idem principle) established in article 23 section 3 of the Constitution, means that when there is a conflict between the rule of law and material justice, preference is given to the first: when someone´s actions have been given final legal evaluation, its subsequent review is prohibited in the interest of the rule of law even if the previous legal evaluation proves to be wrong (see the 19 June 2015 decision of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court in the case No 3-1-1-56-15, p 6). This principle is present in the article 4 of the 7th protocol of the European Convention for Human Rights, in article 50 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and article 54 of the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement of 14 June 1985 between the Governments of the States of the Benelux Economic Union, the Federal Republic of Germany and the French Republic on the gradual abolition of checks at their common borders (The Schengen Convention). The latter is relevant when the previous decision is made in a Member State of the European Union.

33. The Supreme Court, following the practice of the European Court of Human Rights, has previously explained that the ne bis in idem principle prohibits new proceedings if it would concern the same or in their substance same factual circumstances (see the 19 June 2015 decision of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court in the case No 3-1-1-56-15, p 8; Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, Sergey Zolotukhin vs Russia [GC] Application No 14939/03, Judgment 10.2.2009). The Court of Justice of the EU has stated when applying article 54 of the Schengen convention that the only and relevant criterion is whether the material acts at issue constitute a set of facts which are inextricably linked together in time, in space and by their subject-matter. The difference in legal classification between the Member States cannot hinder the application of the ne bis in idem principle (CJEU, Case C-436/04, Van Esbroeck, 9 March 2006, paras 31-36).

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35. Defence correctly refers to the Judgment of the CJEU of 28 September 2006 in Gasparini et al. case, where the court analysed the application of the ne bis in idem principle as protected by article 54 of the Schengen Convention. This decision explained that this principle aims to ensure that no one is prosecuted for the same acts in several Contracting States on the account of him having exercised his right to freedom of movement. The CJEU held that a decision whereby a person is acquitted because of the expiry of the limitation period for the offence, results in the application of the ne bis in idem principle (see CJEU, Case C-467/04, paras 27-28, 33). This means that finding H.K. guilty of acts the Finnish District Court acquitted him, would be against the ne bis in idem principle.

 

Paragraphs referring to EU Charter (original language): 

32. Põhiseaduse § 23 lg-s 3 sätestatud mitmekordse karistamise keelu põhimõte (ne bis in idem-põhimõte) tähistab õiguskindluse ja materiaalse õigluse konfliktsituatsioonis esimese kasuks tehtavat valikut: kui kellegi teole on seadusjõustunud kohtuotsusega antud õiguslik hinnang, on õigusrahu huvides teo hilisem õiguslikult relevantne ümberhindamine keelatud isegi siis, kui varasem hinnang osutub õiguslikult valeks (vt Riigikohtu kriminaalkolleegiumi 19. juuni 2015. a otsus kriminaalasjas nr 3-1-1-56-15, p 6). Selline põhimõte sisaldub ka Euroopa inimõiguste ja põhivabaduste kaitse konventsiooni 7. lisaprotokolli artiklis 4, Euroopa Liidu õiguse osaks olevas Euroopa Liidu põhiõiguste harta artiklis 50 ja konventsioonis, millega rakendatakse 14. juunil 1985 Beneluxi Majandusliidu riikide, Saksamaa Liitvabariigi ja Prantsuse Vabariigi vahel sõlmitud Schengeni lepingut nende ühispiiridel kontrolli järkjärgulise kaotamise kohta (edaspidi: Schengeni rakenduskonventsioon), täpsemalt selle artiklis 54. Viimane on asjakohane olukorras, kus varasem kohtuotsus on tehtud teises Euroopa Liidu liikmesriigis.

33. Riigikohus, juhindudes Euroopa Inimõiguste Kohtu praktikast, on selgitanud, et ne bis in idem-põhimõte keelab isiku suhtes teistkordse menetluse läbiviimise juhul, kui see menetlus käsitleb samu või sisuliselt samu faktilisi asjaolusid (vt Riigikohtu kriminaalkolleegiumi 19. juuni 2015. a otsus kriminaalasjas nr 3-1-1-56-15, p 8; Euroopa Inimõiguste Kohtu 10. veebruari 2009. a otsus asjas Sergey Zolotukhin vs. Venemaa). Ka Euroopa Kohus on Schengeni rakenduskonventsiooni artikli 54 tõlgendamisel asunud seisukohale, et ainsaks oluliseks kriteeriumiks on tegude sisulise samasuse tuvastamine, mida tuleb mõista konkreetselt omavahel ajaliselt, ruumiliselt ja esemeliselt lahutamatult seotud asjaolude kogumi esinemisena. Õiguslike kvalifikatsioonide erinevused liikmesriikides ei tohi takistada ne bis in idem-põhimõtte kohaldumist (vt Euroopa Kohtu 9. märtsi 2006. a otsus asjas C-436/04, Van Esbroeck, p-d 31-36).

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35. Kaitsja viitab asjakohaselt Euroopa Kohtu 28. septembri 2006. a otsusele asjas Gasparini jt, milles kohus käsitles Schengeni rakenduskonventsiooni artiklis 54 sätestatud ne bis in idem-põhimõtet. Otsuses selgitati, et põhimõtte eesmärgiks on vältida olukorda, kus isik satub liikumisvabaduse kasutamisel mitme liikmesriigi territooriumil sama teo toimepanemise eest korduvalt kohtu alla. Kohus asus seisukohale, et kriminaalasjas tehtud otsus, millega süüdistatav mõistetakse kriminaalmenetluse aluseks oleva kuriteo aegumise tõttu lõplikult õigeks, tingib ne bis in idem-põhimõtte kohaldumise (vt otsus asjas nr C-467/04, p-d 27-28, 33). See tähendab, et H. K. süüditunnistamine Eestis läbiviidavas kriminaalmenetluses Helsingi Linnakohtu 22. jaanuari 2016. a otsuses käsitletud faktilistest asjaoludest lähtuvalt oleks vastuolus ne bis in idem-põhimõttega.

Language: 
Estonian
Deciding body (original language): 
Riigikohus
Language: 
Estonian