by Daniela Guimarães, Collaborating Member of CEDU
On 8th, September 2015, the Court of Justice of the European Union reached a decision that draws consequences from the case law Åkerberg Fransson, C-617/10, considering the standpoint of the protection of the financial interests of the European Union.
Mr. Ivo Taricco and other defendants, Italian citizens, were charged before the Tribunale di Cuneo (Italy), for having formed and organised during the fiscal years 2005 to 2009 a conspiracy to commit various offenses in relation to VAT. During their legal prosecution, several matters have arisen in the case causing delays in the process. Such delays can have serious consequences once the limitation period for each of the accused goes from six to seven years and even though that limitation period can be interrupted, it cannot be extended beyond a quarter of its initial duration (Articles 160 and 161, Italian Penal Code). According to the referring court, it is certain that all the offences will be time-barred before a final judgement can be delivered regarding the accused. The referring judge says that situations of “de facto impunity” in cases related to tax evasion are rather normal due to the mentioned Italian norms as they do not allow an extension of the limitation period in crimes such as the ones at stake. Being the criminal investigations, in most cases, of great complexity, often, the time-limit compromises an effective criminal prosecution. In practical terms, the statute of limitations regime in Italy can, actually, function as a “way out” for white collar crime offenders.