European arrest warrant and the ECHR.
Β.Α.Α. v. Romania 18-04-2019 (no. 70621/16)
Complaint of the applicant concerning an arrest warrant issued by the Romanian authorities. The Court considered that the authorities complied with the ECHR criteria when issuing an arrest warrant against the applicant, which eventually took place in the United Kingdom under a European arrest warrant. In particular, the authorities had provided the applicant with adequate information about the proceedings against him, had confirmed that he had escaped and given him the opportunity to attend either in person or by a proxy attorney. The ECtHR agreed with the domestic court’s view that imposing a more lenient measure in relation to detention would not be effective. No infringement of the ECHR and unacceptable application.
The applicant is a German national who was born in 1978 and is currently in London.
In 2014 the Romanian prosecuting authorities started an investigation into Mr B.A.A for allegedly
giving bribes to judges and embezzlement, while his father was indicted with corruption. The two
were well-known businessmen who had made investments in the country.
In 2016 the courts granted a request from the prosecutor to order Mr B.A.A.’s arrest and pre-trial
detention, finding that there was a reasonable suspicion of corruption. The evidence for their
decision included witness statements, official documents and recordings of telephone conversations,
indicating that the applicant had apparently tried to bribe judges to obtain preferential treatment
for companies in which he and his father had financial interests and had committed embezzlement.
The courts also concluded that the applicant had absconded and that it was not possible to envisage
any more lenient measure than detention. They noted in particular that the authorities had
unsuccessfully tried to notify the applicant of the proceedings, in Monaco and in London, by email
and by telephone. He had apparently disconnected his telephone in Monaco after the local police
had informed him of the Romanian authorities’ attempts to serve the necessary documents on him.
The Romanian authorities issued a European Arrest Warrant for the applicant and he was eventually
arrested in London in 2018. According to the latest information, he is still in detention pending
extradition awaiting an appeal hearing by the High Court of England and Wales.
THE DECISION OF THE COURT
The Court noted that although the applicant had been arrested and put into detention in the United
Kingdom, the reason for that process was the European Arrest Warrant issued by Romania. It
therefore had to examine Romania’s actions in the context of the complaint.
It reiterated that detention pending trial could be compatible with the Convention if it was based on
a reasonable suspicion that a person had committed an offence, if it aimed to bring that person
before a competent legal authority and was lawful.
If detention had been ordered because someone had failed to appear when summoned, the
authorities had to ensure the individual had had enough notice and time to comply with the order
and they had to take reasonable steps to confirm that he or she had actually absconded.
The Court found that the suspicions against the applicant were based on extensive evidence which
was enough to satisfy an objective observer that he might have committed the offences in question.
The arrest warrant had been issued for the purpose of bringing him before a court in Romania,
which had not been possible up to that point because he had left the country, a situation which
could not be imputed to the authorities.
Furthermore, the warrant had been issued because the applicant had apparently absconded as
efforts to contact him at his last known address in Monaco, though his companies’ headquarters, or
by email and telephone had been unsuccessful. Indeed, he had apparently disconnected his
telephone after being contacted by the Monegasque police.
In Romania, he had been represented by a lawyer and his allegations of not being duly served with
the notification of the proceedings had been examined by the courts, whose assessment the Court
accepted. It also saw no reason to depart from their findings about the need to detain him rather
than impose a more lenient measure.
The Court found that the domestic authorities had taken reasonable steps to inform the applicant of
the proceedings and to confirm that he had absconded. He had had the possibility to appear before
the courts in person or through a lawyer of his own choice. There was nothing in the case file to
show the lawyer had been hindered in representing his client or presenting arguments.
Based on the material before it, the Court could not discern any violation of Article 5 § 1 (c) of the
Convention and the applicant’s complaint had to be rejected as manifestly ill-founded.
The applicant had not proven “beyond reasonable doubt” that the authorities’ actions had been
aimed at removing his family’s companies from the domestic market. The Court found no
appearance of a violation of Article 18 and rejected this complaint as manifestly ill-founded(echrcaselaw.com editing).