Article 17 - Right to property
Article 47 - Right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial
Key facts of the case:
On October 8th 2020, the appellant H.D. was convicted for smuggling. After he confessed for committing the crime, reached an agreement with the prosecution and the offender was sentenced to one year and three months of imprisonment, a fine of BGN 10000, and confiscation of the vehicle used for smuggling. The vehicle was property of a citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina, F.B., who was the manager of the company but was not involved as a defendant. The convicted H.D. submitted a request to the Supreme Court of Cassation for reopening of the case and annulment of the conviction, particularly a return of the confiscated property. The request is based on the ECJ Judgement of 14 January 2021 on the case C-393/19 which addressed a reference for a preliminary ruling (requested by Appellate Court Plovdiv in connection to another criminal proceedings). According to the ECJ decision, the EU law (particularly, Art. 17 and 47 of the Charter, Framework Decision 2005/212/JHA, and Directive 2014/42/EU) do not allow national legislation that allows the confiscation of property used to commit the crime of "qualified smuggling" when it belongs to a bona fide third party. Thereby, the appellant claimed that Bulgarian Criminal Code (art. 242, para.8) allowing confiscation of third party’s property was not in line with the EU law, therefore the seizure of the vehicle was illegal.
Key legal question raised by the Court:
The Supreme Court of Cassation had to determine the reopening of the case and annulment of an effective court decision in the part of the confiscated property. It had to be considered whether the ECJ Judgement on case C-393/19 of 14/01/2021 is applicable to the current case by comparing the factual framework of both.
Outcome of the case:
The Supreme Court of Cassation decided that the request for reopening that case was admissible. The court found complete similarity of the legally relevant facts of the case at hand and the case that was subject to the reference for preliminary ruling to ECJ – offence of illegal smuggling of goods with the use of a vehicle owned by a bona fide third party. Thus, the Supreme Court of Cassation decided to annul the conviction only in the part imposing confiscation of the vehicle in favour of the state.
In view of the interpretation adoped in the ECJ Judgement on case C-393/19, and Art.422, para.1, item 5 of the Bulgarian Criminal Procedure Code providing legal way for a reopening a penal case due to significant breaches in the application of the substantive law, it is admissible to annul the ruling already entered into force, which reflected the agreement reached between the defense attorney and the prosecutor, only in the part where the law was violated, namely regarding the application of art. 242, para.8 of the Criminal Code on which grounds was confiscated a vehicle used to transportation the smuggled goods, that was property of a bona fide third party. According to ECJ Judgement, the violated applicable substantive law is Art.2, para. 1 of Council Framework Decision 2005/212/JHA of 24 February 2005 on Confiscation of Crime-Related Proceeds, Instrumentalities and Property in connection to Art. 17, para. 1 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and Art. 4 of Framework Decision 2005/212 in connection to Art. 47 of the Charter. According to the interpretation of the cited EU legal norms, / which is part of the same / it is necessary to conclude that the court of first instance has incorrectly applied the provision of Art. 242, para. 8 of the Criminal Code, on the basis of which he confiscated in favor of the state the vehicle used for transportation of the smuggled goods, which was not the property of the convict, but belonged to a third bona fide person who had no connection with the crime and has not been involved in criminal proceedings due to its contradiction with EU secondary law.
Предвид тълкуването, възприето в решението на СЕС по дело С-393/19 г. и съществуващият в чл. 422, ал. 1, т. 5 от НПК вътрешноправен способ за отмяна на влезли в сила съдебни актове, поради съществени нарушения по приложението на материалния закон, е допустимо да се отмени влязлото в сила определение, с което е одобрено споразумението между защитника на осъдения и прокурора в частта, в която е нарушен законът, а именно относно приложението на чл. 242, ал. 8 от НК, на основание на който текст е отнето превозно средство, собственост на трето добросъвестно лице, с което са пренесени стоките, предмет на контрабандата. Приложимият материален закон, който е нарушен съгласно Решение С-393/2021 на СЕС е Член 2, параграф 1 от Рамково решение 2005/212/ПВР на Съвета от 24 февруари 2005 година относно конфискация на облаги, средства и имущество от престъпления във връзка с член 17, параграф 1 от Хартата на основните права на Европейския съюз и Член 4 от Рамково решение 2005/212 във връзка с член 47 от Хартата на основните права. Съгласно тълкуването на цитираните общностни правни норми, /което е част от същите /се налага извода, че първоинстанционният съд неправилно е приложил разпоредбата на чл. 242, ал. 8 от НК, на основание на която е отнел в полза на държавата превозното средство, послужило за пренасяне на стоките, предмет на контрабандата, което не е било собственост на осъдения, а е принадлежало на трето добросъвестно лице, което няма връзка с престъплението и не е участвало в наказателното производство, поради противоречието й с вторичното право на ЕС.