Cyprus / Supreme Court of Cyprus, Appeal Jurisdiction / Civil appeals No. 2/2018 and 3/2018 Eliades v. Republic of Cyprus; Bank of Cyprus Public Company Ltd v The Republic of Cyprus

Key facts of the case:

They appealed their conviction on a number of grounds including the principle of lex mitior as enshrined in article 15(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, recognised in the CJEU ruling in Silvio Berlusconi et al[2]  and codified in article 49(1) of the Charter. Τhe appellant argued that the lower court had applied the 2005 law on market manipulation, however this law had meanwhile been replaced by a subsequent law in 2016 which is more favourable to him. The 2005 law had transposed the Market Abuse Directive (MAD) which gave the member states discretion to decide whether to introduce criminal sanctions. Cyprus exercised this option and did introduce criminal sanctions, which were embodied in the 2005 law. In 2014 a new Directive was adopted, namely 2014/57 known as MAD II in combination with Regulation 596/2014. In order to transpose the new legal order of the EU, in 2016 the national law of 2005 was replaced with the new law transposing MAD II[3] which introduced additional criteria in order for an act to be classified as criminal market manipulation: the act must have been committed with intent, the case must be serious including having a serious impact on the integrity of the market and the dissemination of the information must be aimed at deriving a personal benefit. The appellant argued that the criteria introduced by the 2016 law were not met in his case and therefore his conviction had to be quashed.


[1] Cyprus, Law on the actions of persons in possession of confidential information and on actions of market manipulation (market abuse) of 2005 [O περί Πράξεων Προσώπων που Κατέχουν Εμπιστευτικές Πληροφορίες και των Πράξεων Χειραγώγησης της Αγοράς (Κατάχρηση Αγοράς) Νόμος του 2005], Ν. 116(Ι)/2005 available at http://cylaw.org/nomoi/arith/2005_1_116.pdf

[2] CJEU, Joined cases C-387/02, C-391/02 and C-403/02, Criminal proceedings against Silvio Berlusconi et al, 3 May 2005.

[3] Cyprus, Law on market manipulation of 2016 (O περί Κατάχρησης της Αγοράς Νόμος του 2016) Ν. 102(Ι)/2016, available at www.cylaw.org/nomoi/arith/2016_1_102.pdf

 

Key legal question raised by the Court:

Whether the principle of lex mitior may extend beyond the confines of the imposition of the penalty, in order to reverse a trial court decision which had convicted the appellant of a criminal offence. The appellant argued that under the 2016 law, which was adopted four years after he had made the misleading statement to the shareholders, the criminal offence for which he was convicted could not be established as the prerequisites of the 2016 law were not met.

Outcome of the case:

The Court did not endorse the appellant’s argument that the principle of lex mitior extends beyond the penalty, to cover the entire criminal classification of the act. Instead, it found that neither article 49 of the EU Charter nor article 7 of the ECHR was interpreted as meaning that lex mitior could be used to annul a criminal offence except where this is explicitly provided for in the law. 

The principle of lex mitior acquires retrospective force as far as the penalty is concerned, leading to the conclusion that the lesser penalty foreseen in the 2016 law may be imposed even if the offence took place in 2012. In support of this conclusion, the Court also cited: article 15(1) of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights which was ratified in 1969; interpretation of article 49(1) of the EU Charter offered by the CJEU in the Berlusconi case;[1] the interpretation of article 7 of the ECHR offered by the ECtHR in the Scoppola case, which had established that the state’s failure to grant the applicant the benefit of a more lenient penalty, foreseen in a law which had come into force after the commission of the offence, amounted to a violation of article 7(1) of the ECHR;[2] and the interpretation of article 29(1) of the EU Charter offered by the CJEU in the Berlusconi case.[3]   

Nevertheless, although rejecting the argument that the conviction should be quashed on the basis of the lex mitior principle, the Court found another ground for quashing the conviction, which had not been invoked by the appellant. It concluded that the appellant’s action lacked the subjective element of a guilty conscience, known in law as mens rea, as his statement before the shareholders was not intended to manipulate the market but rather to respond to pressing questions put to him in the context of an explosive environment. The Court found that the appellant’s statements were intended to appease everyone and especially the shareholders in order to avoid negative reactions or market repercussions. Therefore although the statement was knowingly false and misleading, it was not intended to manipulate the market. The Court allowed the appeal and quashed the appellant’s conviction.

The decision was endorsed by two of the three judges on the bench. The third judge delivered a dissenting opinion, disagreeing with the other two judges on the lack of mens rea. Instead, the dissenting judge found that the appellant’s statement to the sharesholders was intentionally misleading and specifically intended to manipulate the market projecting inaccurate data intentionally presented as accurate.


[1] CJEU, Joined cases C-387/02, C-391/02 and C-403/02, Criminal proceedings against Silvio Berlusconi et al, 3 May 2005.

[3] CJEU, Joined cases C-387/02, C-391/02 and C-403/02, Criminal proceedings against Silvio Berlusconi et al, 3 May 2005.

 

 

Paragraphs referring to EU Charter: 

"Ιn the same context, [the principle of lex mitior] has been recognized by the Court of Justice of the European Union in Joined Cases C-387/02, C-391/02 and C-403/02 Silvio Berlusconi and Others [2005] ECR I-3565, paras 66-69, as deriving from the constitutional traditions common to the Member States and therefore as a general principle of Community law now incorporated into Article 49.1 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union."

"In Cyprus, in view of the explicit provision of Article 15 (1) of Law 14/1969, the application of the principle of a lighter sentence does not present any problem of interpretation. On the contrary, it was reinforced by the interpretation given to Article 7 of the ECHR in Scoppola and the interpretation of Article 49.1 of the Charter in Berlusconi." 

"Besides, if the aim was to apply a subsequent more favorable law, there would be no need to invoke Article 49.1 of the Charter, since that, as stated above, Italian law itself provides for the lex mitior principle in its broadest sense."

"In conclusion: Since we are dealing with legislation aimed at fulfilling obligations arising from EU law and, consequently, with the question of the application of that law, Article 49 of the Charter is applicable. However, we do not believe that the CJEU case has attributed such a meaning to Article 49 of the Charter. Nor did the ECHR give such a perspective to Article 7 of the Convention."

 
Paragraphs referring to EU Charter (original language): 

Έχει, υπό την ίδια έννοια, αναγνωριστεί από το Δικαστήριο Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης (ΔΕΕ) στις συνεκδικασθείσες υποθέσεις C-387/02, C-391/02  και C-403/02, Silvio Berlusconi κ.λ.π., [2005] ECR I-3565, παρ. 66-69, ως απορρέουσα από τις κοινές συνταγματικές παραδόσεις των κρατών μελών και, επομένως, ως αποτελούσα γενική αρχή του κοινοτικού δικαίου, που έχει πλέον ενσωματωθεί στο άρθρο 49.1 του Χάρτη Θεμελιωδών Δικαιωμάτων της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης.

….

Στην Κύπρο, ενόψει της ρητής πρόνοιας του άρθρου 15(1) του Ν. 14/1969 η εφαρμογή της αρχής αναφορικά με ελαφρότερη ποινή δεν παρουσιάζει οποιοδήποτε ερμηνευτικό πρόβλημα.  Αντίθετα, ενισχύθηκε δια της ερμηνείας που δόθηκε στο Άρθρο 7 της ΕΣΔΑ στην Scoppola και της ερμηνείας του άρθρου 49.1 του Χάρτη στη Berlusconi.

 Άλλωστε, αν το ζητούμενο ήταν η εφαρμογή κάποιου μεταγενέστερου ευνοϊκού νόμου, δεν θα ήταν ανάγκη να τεθεί ερώτημα με αναφορά στο άρθρο 49.1 του Χάρτη, εφόσον ως άνω, το ίδιο το ιταλικό δίκαιο προβλέπει την αρχή lex mitior υπό την ευρύτερη της έννοια.

 Εν κατακλείδι:  Εφόσον ασχολούμαστε με νομοθεσία που αποσκοπεί στην εκπλήρωση υποχρεώσεων που απορρέουν από το Ενωσιακό δίκαιο και, κατά συνέπεια, με ζήτημα εφαρμογής του εν λόγω δικαίου, το άρθρο 49 του Χάρτη έχει εφαρμογή.  Δεν θεωρούμε όμως ότι, έχει διατυπωθεί αρχή μέσα από τη νομολογία του ΔΕΕ που να προσδίδει στο άρθρο 49 του Χάρτη τέτοια έννοια.  Ούτε το ΕΔΑΔ έδωσε τέτοια διάσταση στο άρθρο 7 της Σύμβασης.

 
Language: 
Greek
Deciding body (original language): 
Ανώτατο Δικαστήριο Κύπρου, Δευτεροβάθμια Δικαιοδοσία
Language: 
Greek