In January 2011 a French lawyer, Patrick Michaud, brought a case to the European Court of Human Rights to complain about the lack of conformity with the Convention between the rules on suspicious reporting under the money laundering legislation and the right to legal advice. The case concerned the obligation on French lawyers to report their “suspicions” regarding possible money laundering activities by their clients. Among other things, the applicant submitted that this obligation, which resulted from the transposition of European directives, was in conflict with Article 8 of the Convention, which protects the confidentiality of lawyer-client relations.
The Court concluded that the obligation to report suspicions in the specific circumstances of the French implementing law did not represent a disproportionate interference with lawyers’ professional privilege and that there had therefore been no violation of Article 8 by France:
“The Court stressed the importance of the confidentiality of lawyerclient relations and of legal professional privilege. It considered, however, that the obligation to report suspicions pursued the legitimate aim of prevention of disorder or crime, since it was intended to combat money laundering and related criminal offences, and that it was necessary in pursuit of that aim. On the latter point, it held that the obligation to report suspicions, as implemented in France, did not interfere disproportionately with legal professional privilege, since lawyers were not subject to the above requirement when defending litigants and the legislation had put in place a filter to protect professional privilege, thus ensuring that lawyers did not submit their reports directly to the authorities, but to the president of their Bar association.”
The CC BE will analyse the judgement further in the coming months.
Source: newsletter February 2013, page 4, of the Council of Bars & Law Societies of Europe (CC BE)