C-617/10 Aklagaren v Hans Akerberg Fransson [2013]

C-617/10 Åkerberg Fransson v Hans Åkerberg Fransson [2013] is an EU law case that addresses human rights within the European Union.

Mr Hans Åkerberg Fransson challenged the initiation of criminal proceedings against him after already receiving tax fines. The charges related to alleged fraud in misstating income and Value Added Tax (VAT) liabilities, particularly in his work as a fisherman on the Kalix River. The European Union's Directive 2006/112/EC harmonised principles of income and VAT taxes.

The central legal issue revolved around the concept of "ne bis in idem" (not the same thing twice), as enshrined in CFREU Article 50 and ECHR Protocol 7, Article 4. Mr Åkerberg Fransson argued that being subjected to criminal proceedings after receiving tax fines constituted a double jeopardy violation.

The Court of Justice, Grand Chamber, held that a tax penalty for VAT, if not of a criminal nature, could be imposed. The judgment clarified that EU law does not govern the relations between member states and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). However, national law cannot disapply provisions contrary to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFREU), as it lacks the power to fully assess the compatibility of a provision with the Charter.

The Court reiterated its case-law, emphasising that fundamental rights within the EU legal order are applicable in all situations governed by EU law. If a legal situation falls within the scope of EU law, the Court must provide guidance on interpretation for national courts. However, if a legal situation falls outside the scope of EU law, the Court lacks jurisdiction to rule on it.

In the specific case, where tax penalties and criminal proceedings were linked to VAT obligations, the Court highlighted the obligations of Member States to take measures ensuring the collection of all VAT due on their territory. The judgment clarified the relationship between EU law, fundamental rights, and the application of the Charter in situations falling within the scope of European Union law.
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