Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of Court (First Section Committee), June 11, 2015 (case CASE OF WALLNÖFER v. AUSTRIA)

Judge:WEH W.L.
Defense:AUSTRIA
Resolution Date:June 11, 2015
Issuing Organization:Court (First Section Committee)

FIRST SECTION

CASE OF WALLNÖFER v. AUSTRIA

(Application no. 64346/09)

JUDGMENT

STRASBOURG

11 June 2015

This judgment is final. It may be subject to editorial revision.

In the case of Wallnöfer v. Austria,

The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:

             Mirjana Lazarova Trajkovska, President,              Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos,              Ksenija Turković, judges,and André Wampach, Deputy Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 19 May 2015,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:

PROCEDURE

  1. The case originated in an application (no. 64346/09) against the Republic of Austria lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by an Austrian national, Mr Alois Wallnöfer (“the applicant”), on 26 November 2009.

  2. The applicant was represented by Mr W.L. Weh, a lawyer practising in Bregenz. The Austrian Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mr H. Tichy, Head of the International Law Department at the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs.

  3. On 11 April 2014 the complaints concerning the length of the proceedings and the alleged violation of the presumption of innocence were communicated to the Government and the remainder of the application was declared inadmissible by the President of the Section in accordance with the Single Judge procedure (Article 27 of the Convention).

    THE FACTS

    THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE

  4. The applicant was born in 1933 and lives in Innsbruck.

  5. The applicant was the manager of Alpenland Holland B.V., a company registered in the Netherlands dealing with artwork.

    1. Investigations by the Tax Authority against the applicant for tax fraud

  6. On 11 May 1994 the Innsbruck Tax Authority first informed the Innsbruck Public Prosecutor of the suspicion of tax fraud by the applicant in connection with the sale of several pieces of artwork by Alpenland Holland B.V.

  7. On 16 May 1994 the Innsbruck Regional Court issued an order for the applicant’s home to be searched. The search was conducted on 30 May 1994, which is also the date when the applicant was first notified of the investigations against him.

  8. On 26 February 1997 the Innsbruck Tax Authority submitted its final report to the Innsbruck Public Prosecutor.

    1. Criminal proceedings against the applicant

  9. On 8 June 1998 the Innsbruck Public Prosecutor issued an indictment against the applicant concerning the suspicion of tax fraud during the years 1989, 1990 and 1992, alleging that the applicant had evaded taxes amounting to 6.87 million. Austrian Schilling (equivalent to approximately 500,000 euros (EUR)).

  10. The Innsbruck Regional Court held oral hearings on 19 November 1998, 14 January 1999 and 5 October 2000. On the latter date it acquitted the applicant of the charges. On 22 November 2001 the Supreme Court quashed the judgment upon a plea of nullity by the Innsbruck Tax Authority and referred the case back to the first instance for a re-trial.

  11. After having held oral hearings on 5 June 2002, 9 September 2002 and 14 October 2002, the Innsbruck Regional Court convicted the applicant of tax fraud and sentenced him to a fine of EUR 120,000, EUR 40,000 of which was suspended on probation. The judgment was served on 16 November 2002. The applicant lodged a plea of nullity.

  12. On 11 September 2003 the Supreme Court again quashed the judgment and referred the case back to the first instance.

  13. In March 2003 the Innsbruck Regional Court commissioned an expert to determine the assessment base for the calculation of the taxes.

  14. On 18 and 19 November 2004 and on 23 December 2004 further oral hearings were held. The Innsbruck Regional Court remarked in a note to the file dated 14 February 2005, quoting the case Hennig v. Austria (no. 41444/98, 2 October 2003), that the length of the proceedings was already considerable, and admitted that this was...

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