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Estonia / Supreme Court / 1-17-4924/15

H.K. v the Prosecutors office

Policy area:
Justice, freedom and security
Deciding Body type:
National Court/Tribunal
Deciding Body:
Supreme Court
Decision date:

Key facts of the case: 

It was suspected that H.K. was guilty of money laundering, pursuant Article 394 section 2 subsection 3 of the Penal Code; these proceedings are ongoing. Information for this suspicion was partially drawn from a Finnish court decision. The Finnish district Court in Helsinki found on 22 January 2016 that H.K. is not guilty of any of the three accusations brought forward by the Finnish prosecutor, none of which was money laundering. The Finnish prosecutor`s office dropped the first accusation (granting consumer credit without required registration), two following accusations (marketing offence and illegally granting consumer credit) were found to be expired. Nevertheless, the court established that H.K. received through his illegal activity criminal profit in the amount of 3'557'574 €. Based on this information from the Finnish decision, the Estonian Public Prosecutor started criminal proceedings against H.K., for money laundering and with reference to article 142 section 1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure initiated extended confiscation of assets acquired by the criminal offence, in the amount of 108'150 €. This amount was confiscated from H.K. relating to the Finnish court proceedings in 2013 and arrested already by Finnish court.

H.K. did not agree with the extended confiscation and claimed that ongoing money laundering suspicion against him violates the ne bis in idem principle, as he is being tried the second time for the same offence; the first trial for the same offence took in his opinion place in Finland.

The Estonian Public Prosecutors office, however, finds that H.K.´s case in Finland concerned a different offence and was based on different facts and did not deal with the money laundering offence. Nevertheless, the judgment of the Finish court included evidence of money laundering; this resulted in criminal proceedings that are currently ongoing. Therefore, the Public Prosecutor found that extended confiscation was legal and it does not violate the ne bis in idem principle.

Lower levels of Estonian courts found that the extended confiscation was justified. The Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts and stated that the issue of the ne bis in idem relating to the money laundering offence would be ascertained once the criminal proceedings are completed.

Outcome of the case: 

The Supreme Court found that the extended arrest of assets did not violate the ne bis in idem principle and was in accordance both with the fundamental rights as well as with the EU law and corresponds to the established case-law of the European Court of Human Rights as well as the practice of the CJEU.