Janša & Others Breathe Easy as Constitutional Court Blocks Retroactive Asset Seizure

By , 11 Sep 2018, 11:02 AM Politics
Janez Janša Janez Janša Wikimedia - European People's Party CC by 2.0

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STA, 11 September 2018 - After the Constitutional Court quashed the retroactive impact of the 2011 act on the seizure of unlawfully gained assets in July, the prosecution has withdrawn several forfeiture cases, including against former Maribor Mayor Franc Kangler, with media reports saying Janez Janša is among those who are to be let off the hook. 

The Constitutional Court struck down Article 57 of the law, which stipulated that asset forfeiture may be conducted for any criminal cases initiated after 1 January, 1990.

Instead, prosecutors may only be looking for mismatch between the income and assets of the suspects, defendants and convicts who committed the act after the law took on 29 November, 2011.

The Specialised Prosecution Service, which is responsible for cases under the law, set out to review all the cases before the Ljubljana court as soon as it received the relevant constitutional judgement.

The head of the service's financial department, Barbara Lipovšek, confirmed media reports that nine lawsuits and one appeal had been withdrawn.

They pertain to individuals who committed the alleged criminal act before 29 November, 2011.

She would not rule out the possibility for legal action in further cases to be withdrawn. Out of the 24 suits, decisions in six have become final and one has become partially so, while withdrawal has been proposed for ten cases.

The prosecution cannot assess yet how many of the cases under the act on the seizure of unlawfully gained assets would be resumed.

Citing unofficial information, the newspaper Dnevnik reported that the cases dropped included those against former Maribor Mayor Franc Kangler and other "heavyweights".

Given the time the alleged acts were committed, it is possible to infer that cases will also be dropped against Janez Janša, the leader of the Democratic Party (SDS), and former Intereuropa CEO Andrej Lovšin.

Janša is suspected of having at least EUR 400,000 worth of property that he cannot properly account for.

Andrej Pohar of the law firm Čeferin, who acts as counsel for several parties under the act on the seizure of unlawfully gained assets, told the newspaper Delo that he had received a decision for the withdrawal of suits against Tomaž Simonič, former director of the Agency for Post and Electronic Communications, and against the heirs of Jože Zagožen, a former high-ranking SDS member.

The late Zagožen was implicated in the Patria defence corruption case on suspicion of taking bribes.

Pohar said that once his clients received the decisions, they had a right to appeal. He did not know yet whether they would agree with the withdrawal because in theory the prosecution can bring the lawsuit again if the law was amended.

Lipovšek confirmed that the plaintiffs would now have to decide on the withdrawals, as well as that the prosecution would carry the cost of procedure because it asked for the suits to be withdrawn.

Pohar believes that the cases are looking good for his clients in court so it is worth considering waiting for the court to reject the suit, which would preclude a new lawsuit in the same case.

According to Delo, the prosecution has so far filed for asset seizure against 55 individuals and eight legal entities the combined amount of EUR 30.564m in a total of 24 cases.

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