Tuesday, May 13, 2014

PAULET v. REINO UNIDO (STEDH 13-05-2014)


El caso resuelto hoy por el TEDH se refiere al comiso de la renta ahorrada (21,699,60 GBP) por un trabajador originario de Ivory en el Reino Unido.La renta se obtuvo por trabajos realizados entre Abril de 2003 y Febrero de 2007 con un salario bruto de 73.293,17 GBP, por los que se pagaron impuestos y cotizaciones sociales por un importe total de 23,293,17 GBP.

Para la realización de los trabajos el trabajador hizo uso de un pasaporte falso, por lo que fue condenado a una pena privativa de libertad.

El comiso se acuerda en un procedimiento distinto y su objeto se considera un beneficio derivado del ilícito penal.

El órgano nacional desestimó considerar si el comiso era compatible con el justo equilibrio exigido por el artículo 1 del Protocolo 1 del CEDH,

Por esta infracción procedimental, la mayoría considera que se ha producido una violación del artículo 1 del Protocolo 1, pero al mismo tiempo no concede una justa compensación por el importe decomisado sino solo por el daño moral derivado del mismo, por entender que tampoco consta un vínculo directo entre la infracción y el daño.

Este último pronunciamiento es objeto de la opinión separada de los jueces Kalaydjieva (Bulgaria) y Bianku (Albania), que consideran que la infracción es sustancial y no solo procedimental y que la compensación debería haber incluido el importe indebidamente decomisado.

En un comentaruio de urgencia, otras cuestiones importantes del caso, no abordadas directamente por la Sentencia y/o los votos particulares, serían, en nuestra opinión, las siguientes:

1) Si la contraprestación por un trabajo efectivo y la renta disponible después de impuestos constituyen posesiones no legales en el sentido del artículo 1 del Protocolo 1 cuando en el inicio de la relación laboral se ha realizado una representación falsa mediante la utilización de un documento falsificado.Si el Estado tiene o no, en este sentido, un título adicional sobre la renta después de impuestos como consecuencia del ilícito previamente sancionado con una pena privativa de libertad.

2) Si a efectos del CEDH puede considerarse como un "beneficio ilícito" desde el punto de vista penal una renta de trabajo efectivo que ha pagado impuestos y cotizaciones sociales y si tal consideración de beneficio ilícito es compatible con el artículo 1 del Protocolo 1 del CEDH.

3) Si la privación de la renta de trabajo ahorrada después de impuestos puede considerarse proporcionada, una pena no prevista legalmente o una medida en el interés público adicional a los impuestos y cotizaciones sociales previamente satisfechos.

4) Si el "comiso" del producto del trabajo puede considerarse un impuesto o gravamen adicional a efectos del artículo 1 del Protocolo 1 del CEDH.

5) Si la privación de la renta de trabajo ahorrada constituye en conjunto un gravamen desproporcionado incompatible con el artículo 1 del Protocolo 1 del CEDH.El demandante habría pagado en total más de un 61% de su renta de trabajo, perdiendo la totalidad del ahorro disponible (N.K.M. v. Hungría).

Los aspectos anteriores se sumarían a aquellos señalados por los jueces Kalaydjieva (Bulgaria) y Bianku (Albania) en su opinión separada.

Una cuestión similar había sido considerada previamente por el Tribunal Supremo del Reino Unido en el caso R. v. Waya , citado por la Sentencia.

Este es el voto separado de los jueces Kalaydjieva (Bulgaria) y Bianku (Albania) en cuanto a la infracción del artículo 1 del Protocolo 1:


"My reasons for finding a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 go further than those of the majority. In my understanding, the issues which this case raises are far from limited to the deficiencies in the procedural protection of the applicant’s right to peaceful enjoyment of property that were reflected in the narrow scope of the review carried out by the domestic courts and their failure to seek and strike the “fair balance” inherent in the second paragraph of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (see paragraph 68).


I find myself unable to agree with the majority’s conclusions (see paragraph 64) that the present case is analogous to previous case-law of this Court on the confiscation of the proceeds of crime (see Phillips v. the United Kingdom, no. 41087/98, and Bongiorno and Others v. Italy, no. 4514/07, 5 January 2010).


The present case appears to depart substantially from this case-law on several major points which seem to be determinative for the proper analysis of the circumstances. In the case of Phillips the Court noted that “in respect of every item taken into account the [national] judge was satisfied ... that the obvious inference was that it had come from an illegitimate source”. In the present case (which concerns the application of different domestic legislation), it has not been contested that, having entered the territory of the United Kingdom by using a false passport, the applicant used it to obtain employment and thus earn his income. Unlike in Phillips, however, it has not been submitted that such employment constituted itself a crime on the part of the applicant, or that the regulation of the domestic labour market went so far as to make any irregularly obtained employment criminal or punishable in any manner. Likewise, it has not been contended that the applicant’s work caused any public or private harm rather than contributing to the public welfare. Notwithstanding this situation, the applicant’s genuinely earned savings were defined and confiscated as the “proceeds of the crime” of using a false passport – an act for which the applicant was punished in separate proceedings. The difference between the reasonable assumption as to the criminal origin of the confiscated property in the case of Phillips and the remote or indeed non-existent link between the use of a false passport and the genuine earning of the confiscated amounts in the present case appears quite obvious.


This difference raises questions as to whether the circumstances of the present case fall to be considered under the first or the second paragraph of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. It is true that under the established case-law of the Court, the confiscation of the proceeds of crime is seen as a measure compatible in principle with the Convention and its Protocols. However, I find myself unable to agree that in the present case the confiscated amounts could be clearly and necessarily defined as the proceeds of crime. Such an assumption is apt to regard any irregular employment as criminal, with the result that any earnings from such employment would be subject to confiscation in the exercise of “the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties” within the meaning of the second paragraph of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention. In my understanding, the Court has hitherto regarded the confiscation of the “proceeds of crime” as compatible with the Convention where a direct link between criminal conduct and the proceeds could be established or reasonably assumed. In the absence of such a direct link, I would venture to express doubts as to the clarity of the law and the foreseeability of the imposed measure.


Given that the applicant’s employment as such was not of a criminal nature and that the criminal origin of the confiscated earnings cannot be established or reasonably assumed, a question arises whether the circumstances in the present case fall more appropriately to be examined under the first paragraph of this provision, which calls for closer scrutiny of the public interest pursued by the measure and of the clarity and foreseeability of the conditions provided for by law for the purposes of such confiscation. In assessing compliance with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, the Court normally makes an overall examination of the various interests in issue, bearing in mind that the Convention is intended to safeguard rights that are “practical and effective”. It must look behind appearances and investigate the realities of the situation complained of, including the conduct of the parties, the means employed by the State and their implementation (see Broniowski v. Poland [GC], no. 31443/96, § 151).


Limiting the scope of the present case to only some of its “procedural aspects”, the majority failed to express any views on whether the applicable legislation was sufficiently precise as to the conditions for forfeiture, whether the domestic courts were required to analyse the link between the assets proposed for forfeiture and the specific crime, and whether they did so in the present case.

It might be true that the findings of the majority with regard to the limited judicial scrutiny performed are sufficient to enable the Court to conclude that there has been a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (see paragraph 69). However, the limited findings as to the “procedural nature” of the established violation (see paragraph 73) neither afford relevant redress in respect of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, nor do they seem to require a subsequent domestic review with a scope sufficiently wide to satisfy the requirement of seeking and striking a “fair balance” required by the said provision (see paragraph 68). In this regard the view that it is not necessary to reach any conclusions in respect of (the lawfulness and/or) the proportionality of the confiscation order leaves the applicant’s essential grievances unaddressed both at the domestic level and by the Court.


For these reasons I also disagree with the majority’s view as to the “absence of a proximate causal link between the procedural violation found and financial loss sustained by the applicant by reason of the confiscation order” (see paragraph 73). In the absence of any subsequent examination of this causal link and/or the proportionality of the uncontested interference, the applicant should have been awarded compensation in pecuniary damage, and not merely for moral damage."

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