The ECHR (Grand Chamber) has given a judgment in the case A and B v. Norway. The ECHR held, by sixteen votes to one, that there had been no violation of Article 4 of Protocol No. 7 (right not to be tried or punished twice) to the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case concerned two taxpayers who submitted that they had been prosecuted and punished twice – in administrative and criminal proceedings – for the same offence. The Court concluded that it had no cause to cast doubt on the reasons why the Norwegian legislature had opted to regulate the socially harmful conduct of non-payment of taxes by means of an integrated dual (administrative/criminal) process. Nor did it call into question the reasons why the Norwegian authorities had chosen to deal separately with the more serious and socially reprehensible aspect of fraud in the context of criminal proceedings rather than an ordinary administrative procedure. The Court found that the conduct of dual proceedings, with the possibility of a combination of different penalties, had been foreseeable for the applicants, who must have known from the outset that criminal prosecution as well as the imposition of tax penalties was possible, or even likely, on the facts of their cases. The Court observed that the administrative and criminal proceedings had been conducted in parallel and were interconnected. The facts established in one of the sets of proceedings had been relied on in the other set and, as regards the proportionality of the overall punishment, the sentence imposed in the criminal trial had taken account of the tax penalty. The Court was satisfied that, while different penalties had been imposed by two different authorities in the context of different procedures, there had nevertheless been a sufficiently close connection between them, both in substance and in time, for them to be regarded as forming part of an overall scheme of sanctions under Norwegian law. 

24130/11 and 29758/11

 

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Rubriek: Europees belastingrecht

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