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Belgium / Constitutional Court / 114/2020

Order of Francophone and Germanophone Bars, Order of Flemish Bars and the Institute of Accountants and Tax Consultants and others

Deciding Body type:
National Court/Tribunal
Deciding Body:
Constitutional Court
Type:
Decision
Decision date:
24/09/2020
Key facts of the case:
The Act of 18 September 2017 relating to the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing and Limitation of the Use of Cash introduces preventive measures to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing, punishable by administrative and criminal penalties. It was adopted in light of developments in this field at the European and international level and aims to implement Directive (EU) 2015/849 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 May 2015 on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering or terrorist financing. The Act applies to many entities, including lawyers who assist their client in the preparation or execution of certain transactions. The applicants claimed that Articles 47 and 49 of the Act of 18 September 2917 infringe lawyer's professional secrecy as an essential element of the right to respect for private life and the right to a fair trial. The Act created an administrative authority, the ‘Financial Information Processing Unit’ (FIPU), tasked to process and provide information with a view to combating money laundering and terrorist financing. Articles 47 and 49 of the Act require lawyers to provide all suspicions of money laundering or terrorist financing to the FIPU.
Key legal question raised by the Court: 
The key legal question was whether the new Act was in violation with lawyer's professional secrecy as an essential element of the right to respect for private life and the right to a fair trial (as provided by Articles 10, 11 and 22 of the Constitution, read in conjunction with Articles 6 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Articles 7 and 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union).
Outcome of the case:
The Constitutional Court ruled that several provisions of the Act of 18 September 2017 are contrary to the professional secrecy of lawyers, as an essential part of the right to privacy and the right to a fair trial. The Act is therefore partially annulled.