Couple suspected of tax evasion suffered no article 8 violation

European Court of Human Rights
European Court of Human Rights

A couple suspected of tax evasion whose home was searched did not suffer any violation of their article 8 rights, the European Court of Human Rights has unanimously held.

The proceedings against them had been triggered when information about their assets held in a Liechtenstein bank had been illegally copied by an employee of the bank and sold to the German secret services. The applicants notably complained that their home had been searched on the basis of a warrant issued on the strength of evidence which had been obtained in breach of domestic and international law.

The court found that the search had been carried out in accordance with the law. It noted, in particular, the settled case-law of the Federal Constitutional Court according to which there was no absolute rule that evidence which had been acquired in violation of procedural rules could not be used in criminal proceedings.

That meant that the couple had been able to foresee – if necessary with the aid of legal advice – that the domestic authorities would consider basing the search warrant on the Liechtenstein data despite the fact that that information might have been acquired in breach of the law.

Furthermore, the search had been proportionate: firstly, because German legislation and jurisprudence in the sphere of searches provided adequate and effective safeguards against abuse in general and had done so in the circumstances of this particular case; secondly, because tax evasion constituted a serious offence; thirdly, because nothing indicated that the German authorities had deliberately and systematically breached domestic and international law in order to obtain information for the prosecution of tax crimes; fourthly, because the warrant had been explicit and detailed as concerned both the offence being investigated as well as the items sought as evidence; and, lastly, because the couple had not alleged any repercussions on their personal reputation as a consequence of the search of their home.

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