The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (or EPPO) is active since June 1st, 2021. It has the power to investigate, prosecute and bring to judgment crimes against the EU budget. Poland does not participate in the enhenced cooperation with this institution. Still, its existence has an impact on the Polish enterpreneurs.
European Public Prosecutor’s Office’s jurisdiction
The European Public Prosecutor’s Office is an independent body of the European Union responsible for investigating, prosecuting and bringing to judgment crimes against the financial interests of the EU, including fraud, corruption, money laundering and cross-border VAT fraud when the damage made is at least 10 millions EUR. You can read more about the role and stracture of EPPO on European Counsil’s site.
EPPO has jurisdiction if the crime was committed on the territory of a EU country which participates in the enhanced cooperation. As of now, 22 countries partcipate in the programme: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.
Poland’s cooperation with EPPO
Even though Poland does not participate in the enhenced cooperation with EPPO, the Polish Ministry of Justice is making amends. The Parliament is debating on the law draft – an amendment of Code of Criminal Procedure adding a new Article 615a. It is to become a legal basis for the cooperation of polish prosecutors with EPPO.
They are also negotations taking place. The main subjects are: starting operational and judicial cooperation, appointing liaison prosecutors and contact point for EPPO in Poland.
EPPO vs Polish entities
There are three situations that must be taken into consideration here.
The Polish enterpreneur can do business abroad benefitting from EU freedom of movement of services and goods. Another option is setting up a branch office which is dependent on the central office in Poland. The third alternative is starting up a subsidiary company in another EU country.
First two options would require EPPO to request help from Polish institutions. That could include p.e. acquiring some documents in company’s central office or detaining a decision-maker stated in Poland. A subsidiary company, however, is an indepenent entity, so usually EPPO should be able to take actions directly.
Nevertheless, if a Polish entity takes action resulting in committing a criminal offence abroad, they can always be held responsible. According to Polish Criminal Code a Polish National is responsable for committing a crime, even abroad. The European Public Prosecutor’s Office has jurisdiction if a specific type of offence has been committed on the territory of a EU country which participates in the enhanced cooperation.
That is why it is so important to prevent falling under any suspision. It is possible to avoid many difficult situations by establishing compliance procedures in the company.
The full version of the article is available in Polish here.