The applicant, Ulrich Sommer, is a German national who was born in 1952 and lives in Cologne (Germany). He works as a criminal defence lawyer. The case concerns his complaint about an inspection of his professional bank account by the public prosecution office.
In March 2011 the public prosecutor contacted Mr Sommer’s bank requesting information about all transactions relating to his professional bank account over the previous two years, as well as information about further, possibly private accounts. The request was made in the context of a criminal investigation into organised fraud, one of the suspects being a client of Mr Sommer. The prosecutor notably suspected that money transferred from this client’s fiancée to Mr Sommer to pay his legal fees had stemmed from illegal activities. The bank complied and a list of 53 transactions was subsequently included in the investigation file as evidence. Mr Sommer learned of these investigative measures concerning his bank account when granted access to the case file, as the lawyer of the accused, in January 2012. Mr Sommer asked the prosecuting authorities and then the courts – to whom the file had been transferred because the criminal proceedings against Mr Sommer’s client had started – to return the data, without success. The courts notably found that the investigation was lawful and that the bank had provided the information voluntarily. This decision was confirmed on appeal. The Court of Appeal found that the safeguards – in particular lawyer-client privilege – in place concerning seizure of documents entrusted to lawyers were not applicable in Mr Sommer’s case. The Federal Constitutional Court refused to admit Mr Sommer’s complaint in September 2013.
Relying on Article 8 (right to respect for private life), Mr Sommer complains that the German authorities had, without justification, collected, stored and made available information about his professional bank account, thereby also revealing information about his clients.
EGMR, Pressemitteilung v. 20.04.2017