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:
In the light of all the foregoing considerations, I propose that the Court give the following answer to the Spetsializiran nakazatelen sad (Specialised Criminal Court, Bulgaria):
87) There is no room for deviation in this matter. The principle of proportionality, which is a general principle of law recognised by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, is also a fundamental freedom which must be applied, here, from that supplementary perspective.
92) I would add that an excessively short period for investigation would be likely to result in the investigation being focused primarily on the evidence against the defendants at the expense of what might be exonerating evidence or evidence capable, by its explanation of motives or conduct, of reducing the severity of the punishment, thereby preventing the severity of the penalty from being disproportionate to the offence, as recommended by Article 49(3) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights on the principle of proportionality.