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CJEU Case C-612/15 / Judgment

Criminal proceedings against Nikolay Kolev and Others.

Policy area:
Justice, freedom and security
Deciding Body type:
Court of Justice of the European Union
Deciding Body:
Court (Grand Chamber)
Type:
Decision
Decision date:
05/06/2018

Key facts of the case:

Reference for a preliminary ruling — Article 325 TFEU — Fraud or any other illegal activities affecting the financial interests of the European Union in customs matters — Effectiveness of prosecution — Closure of criminal proceedings — Reasonable time — Directive 2012/13/EU — Right of a person to be informed of the charges against him — Right of access to case materials — Directive 2013/48/EU — Right of access to a lawyer.

Outcome of the case:

 

On those grounds, the Court (Grand Chamber) hereby rules:

  1. Article 325(1) TFEU must be interpreted as precluding national legislation that establishes a procedure for the termination of criminal proceedings, such as that provided for in Articles 368 and 369 of the Nakazatelno protsesualen kodeks (Code of Criminal Procedure), in so far as that legislation is applicable in proceedings initiated with respect to cases of serious fraud or other serious illegal activities affecting the financial interests of the European Union in customs matters. It is for the national courts to give full effect to Article 325(1) TFEU, by disapplying that legislation, where necessary, while also ensuring respect for the fundamental rights of the persons accused.
  2. Article 6(3) of Directive 2012/13/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2012 on the right to information in criminal proceedings must be interpreted as not precluding the disclosure of detailed information on the charges to the defence after the lodging before the court of the indictment that initiates the trial stage of proceedings, but before the court begins to examine the merits of the charges and before the commencement of any hearing of argument by the court, and after the commencement of that hearing but before the stage of deliberation, where the information thus disclosed is the subject of subsequent amendments, provided that all necessary measures are taken by the court in order to ensure respect for the rights of the defence and the fairness of the proceedings.

    Article 7(3) of that directive must be interpreted as meaning that it is for the national court to be satisfied that the defence has been granted a genuine opportunity to have access to the case materials, such access being possible, in some cases, after the lodging before the court of the indictment that initiates the trial stage of the proceedings, but before that court begins to examine the merits of the charges and before the commencement of any hearing of argument by that court, and after the commencement of that hearing but before the stage of deliberation where new evidence is placed in the file in the course of proceedings, provided that all necessary measures are taken by the court in order to ensure respect for the rights of the defence and the fairness of the proceedings.

  3. Article 3(1) of Directive 2013/48/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2013 on the right of access to a lawyer in criminal proceedings and in European arrest warrant proceedings, and on the right to have a third party informed upon deprivation of liberty and to communicate with third persons and with consular authorities while deprived of liberty, must be interpreted as not precluding national legislation that requires a national court to dismiss the lawyer instructed by two accused persons, against their wishes, on the ground that there is a conflict of interest between those persons and, further, as not precluding the court from allowing those persons to instruct a new lawyer or, when necessary, itself naming two court-appointed lawyers, to replace the first lawyer.