22003A0719(02)
Agreement on mutual legal assistance between the European Union and the United States of America
Official Journal L 181 , 19/07/2003 P. 0034 - 0042
(http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:22003A0719(02):EN:HTML)
 
 

THE EUROPEAN UNION AND THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

DESIRING further to facilitate cooperation between the European Union Member States and the United States of America,

DESIRING to combat crime in a more effective way as a means of protecting their respective democratic societies and common values,

HAVING DUE REGARD for rights of individuals and the rule of law,

MINDFUL of the guarantees under their respective legal systems which provide an accused person with the right to a fair trial, including the right to adjudication by an impartial tribunal established pursuant to law,

DESIRING to conclude an Agreement relating to mutual legal assistance in criminal matters,

HAVE AGREED AS FOLLOWS:

Article 1
Object and purpose

The Contracting Parties undertake, in accordance with the provisions of this Agreement, to provide for enhancements to cooperation and mutual legal assistance.
 

Article 2
Definitions

1. "Contracting Parties" shall mean the European Union and the United States of America.

2. "Member State" shall mean a Member State of the European Union.
 

Article 3
Scope of application of this Agreement in relation to bilateral mutual legal assistance treaties with Member States and in the absence thereof

1. The European Union, pursuant to the Treaty on European Union, and the United States of America shall ensure that the provisions of this Agreement are applied in relation to bilateral mutual legal assistance treaties between the Member States and the United States of America, in force at the time of the entry into force of this Agreement, under the following terms:

(a) Article 4 shall be applied to provide for identification of financial accounts and transactions in addition to any authority already provided under bilateral treaty provisions;

(b) Article 5 shall be applied to authorise the formation and activities of joint investigative teams in addition to any authority already provided under bilateral treaty provisions;

(c) Article 6 shall be applied to authorise the taking of testimony of a person located in the requested State by use of video transmission technology between the requesting and requested States in addition to any authority already provided under bilateral treaty provisions;

(d) Article 7 shall be applied to provide for the use of expedited means of communication in addition to any authority already provided under bilateral treaty provisions;

(e) Article 8 shall be applied to authorise the providing of mutual legal assistance to the administrative authorities concerned, in addition to any authority already provided under bilateral treaty provisions;

(f) subject to Article 9(4) and (5), Article 9 shall be applied in place of, or in the absence of bilateral treaty provisions governing limitations on use of information or evidence provided to the requesting State, and governing the conditioning or refusal of assistance on data protection grounds;

(g) Article 10 shall be applied in the absence of bilateral treaty provisions pertaining to the circumstances under which a requesting State may seek the confidentiality of its request.

2. (a) The European Union, pursuant to the Treaty on European Union, shall ensure that each Member State acknowledges, in a written instrument between such Member State and the United States of America, the application, in the manner set forth in this Article, of its bilateral mutual legal assistance treaty in force with the United States of America.

(b) The European Union, pursuant to the Treaty on European Union, shall ensure that new Member States acceding to the European Union after the entry into force of this Agreement, and having bilateral mutual legal assistance treaties with the United States of America, take the measures referred to in subparagraph (a).

(c) The Contracting Parties shall endeavour to complete the process described in subparagraph (b) prior to the scheduled accession of a new Member State, or as soon as possible thereafter. The European Union shall notify the United States of America of the date of accession of new Member States.

3. (a) The European Union, pursuant to the Treaty on European Union, and the United States of America shall also ensure that the provisions of this Agreement are applied in the absence of a bilateral mutual legal assistance treaty in force between a Member State and the United States of America.

(b) The European Union, pursuant to the Treaty on European Union, shall ensure that such Member State acknowledges, in a written instrument between such Member State and the United States of America, the application of the provisions of this Agreement.

(c) The European Union, pursuant to the Treaty on European Union, shall ensure that new Member States acceding to the European Union after the entry into force of this Agreement, which do not have bilateral mutual legal assistance treaties with the United States of America, take the measures referred to in subparagraph (b).

4. If the process described in paragraph 2(b) and 3(c) is not completed by the date of accession, the provisions of this Agreement shall apply in the relations between the United States of America and that new Member State as from the date on which they have notified each other and the European Union of the completion of their internal procedures for that purpose.

5. The Contracting Parties agree that this Agreement is intended solely for mutual legal assistance between the States concerned. The provisions of this Agreement shall not give rise to a right on the part of any private person to obtain, suppress, or exclude any evidence, or to impede the execution of a request, nor expand or limit rights otherwise available under domestic law.
 

Article 4
Identification of bank information

1. (a) Upon request of the requesting State, the requested State shall, in accordance with the terms of this Article, promptly ascertain if the banks located in its territory possess information on whether an identified natural or legal person suspected of or charged with a criminal offence is the holder of a bank account or accounts. The requested State shall promptly communicate the results of its enquiries to the requesting State.

(b) The actions described in subparagraph (a) may also be taken for the purpose of identifying:

(i) information regarding natural or legal persons convicted of or otherwise involved in a criminal offence;

(ii) information in the possession of non-bank financial institutions; or

(iii) financial transactions unrelated to accounts.

2. A request for information described in paragraph 1 shall include:

(a) the identity of the natural or legal person relevant to locating such accounts or transactions; and

(b) sufficient information to enable the competent authority of the requested State to:

(i) reasonably suspect that the natural or legal person concerned has engaged in a criminal offence and that banks or non-bank financial institutions in the territory of the requested State may have the information requested; and

(ii) conclude that the information sought relates to the criminal investigation or proceeding;

(c) to the extent possible, information concerning which bank or non-bank financial institution may be involved, and other information the availability of which may aid in reducing the breadth of the enquiry.

3. Requests for assistance under this Article shall be transmitted between:

(a) central authorities responsible for mutual legal assistance in Member States, or national authorities of Member States responsible for investigation or prosecution of criminal offences as designated pursuant to Article 15(2); and

(b) national authorities of the United States responsible for investigation or prosecution of criminal offences, as designated pursuant to Article 15(2).

The Contracting Parties may, following the entry into force of this Agreement, agree by Exchange of Diplomatic Note to modify the channels through which requests under this Article are made.

4. (a) Subject to subparagraph (b), a State may, pursuant to Article 15, limit its obligation to provide assistance under this Article to:

(i) offences punishable under the laws of both the requested and requesting States;

(ii) offences punishable by a penalty involving deprivation of liberty or a detention order of a maximum period of at least four years in the requesting State and at least two years in the requested State; or

(iii) designated serious offences punishable under the laws of both the requested and requesting States.

(b) A State which limits its obligation pursuant to subparagraph (a)(ii) or (iii) shall, at a minimum, enable identification of accounts associated with terrorist activity and the laundering of proceeds generated from a comprehensive range of serious criminal activities, punishable under the laws of both the requesting and requested States.

5. Assistance may not be refused under this Article on grounds of bank secrecy.

6. The requested State shall respond to a request for production of the records concerning the accounts or transactions identified pursuant to this Article, in accordance with the provisions of the applicable mutual legal assistance treaty in force between the States concerned, or in the absence thereof, in accordance with the requirements of its domestic law.

7. The Contracting Parties shall take measures to avoid the imposition of extraordinary burdens on requested States through application of this Article. Where extraordinary burdens on a requested State nonetheless result, including on banks or by operation of the channels of communications foreseen in this Article, the Contracting Parties shall immediately consult with a view to facilitating the application of this Article, including the taking of such measures as may be required to reduce pending and future burdens.
 

Article 5
Joint investigative teams

1. The Contracting Parties shall, to the extent they have not already done so, take such measures as may be necessary to enable joint investigative teams to be established and operated in the respective territories of each Member State and the United States of America for the purpose of facilitating criminal investigations or prosecutions involving one or more Member States and the United States of America where deemed appropriate by the Member State concerned and the United States of America.

2. The procedures under which the team is to operate, such as its composition, duration, location, organisation, functions, purpose, and terms of participation of team members of a State in investigative activities taking place in another State's territory shall be as agreed between the competent authorities responsible for the investigation or prosecution of criminal offences, as determined by the respective States concerned.

3. The competent authorities determined by the respective States concerned shall communicate directly for the purposes of the establishment and operation of such team except that where the exceptional complexity, broad scope, or other circumstances involved are deemed to require more central coordination as to some or all aspects, the States may agree upon other appropriate channels of communications to that end.

4. Where the joint investigative team needs investigative measures to be taken in one of the States setting up the team, a member of the team of that State may request its own competent authorities to take those measures without the other States having to submit a request for mutual legal assistance. The required legal standard for obtaining the measure in that State shall be the standard applicable to its domestic investigative activities.

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Article 7
Expedited transmission of requests

Requests for mutual legal assistance, and communications related thereto, may be made by expedited means of communications, including fax or e-mail, with formal confirmation to follow where required by the requested State. The requested State may respond to the request by any such expedited means of communication.
 

Article 8
Mutual legal assistance to administrative authorities

1. Mutual legal assistance shall also be afforded to a national administrative authority, investigating conduct with a view to a criminal prosecution of the conduct, or referral of the conduct to criminal investigation or prosecution authorities, pursuant to its specific administrative or regulatory authority to undertake such investigation. Mutual legal assistance may also be afforded to other administrative authorities under such circumstances. Assistance shall not be available for matters in which the administrative authority anticipates that no prosecution or referral, as applicable, will take place.

2. (a) Requests for assistance under this Article shall be transmitted between the central authorities designated pursuant to the bilateral mutual legal assistance treaty in force between the States concerned, or between such other authorities as may be agreed by the central authorities.

(b) In the absence of a treaty, requests shall be transmitted between the United States Department of Justice and the Ministry of Justice or, pursuant to Article 15(1), comparable Ministry of the Member State concerned responsible for transmission of mutual legal assistance requests, or between such other authorities as may be agreed by the Department of Justice and such Ministry.

3. The Contracting Parties shall take measures to avoid the imposition of extraordinary burdens on requested States through application of this Article. Where extraordinary burdens on a requested State nonetheless result, the Contracting Parties shall immediately consult with a view to facilitating the application of this Article, including the taking of such measures as may be required to reduce pending and future burdens.
 

Article 9
Limitations on use to protect personal and other data

1. The requesting State may use any evidence or information obtained from the requested State:

(a) for the purpose of its criminal investigations and proceedings;

(b) for preventing an immediate and serious threat to its public security;

(c) in its non-criminal judicial or administrative proceedings directly related to investigations or proceedings:

(i) set forth in subparagraph (a); or

(ii) for which mutual legal assistance was rendered under Article 8;

(d) for any other purpose, if the information or evidence has been made public within the framework of proceedings for which they were transmitted, or in any of the situations described in subparagraphs (a), (b) and (c); and

(e) for any other purpose, only with the prior consent of the requested State.

2. (a) This Article shall not prejudice the ability of the requested State to impose additional conditions in a particular case where the particular request for assistance could not be complied with in the absence of such conditions. Where additional conditions have been imposed in accordance with this subparagraph, the requested State may require the requesting State to give information on the use made of the evidence or information.

(b) Generic restrictions with respect to the legal standards of the requesting State for processing personal data may not be imposed by the requested State as a condition under subparagraph (a) to providing evidence or information.

3. Where, following disclosure to the requesting State, the requested State becomes aware of circumstances that may cause it to seek an additional condition in a particular case, the requested State may consult with the requesting State to determine the extent to which the evidence and information can be protected.

4. A requested State may apply the use limitation provision of the applicable bilateral mutual legal assistance treaty in lieu of this Article, where doing so will result in less restriction on the use of information and evidence than provided for in this Article.

5. Where a bilateral mutual legal assistance treaty in force between a Member State and the United States of America on the date of signature of this Agreement, permits limitation of the obligation to provide assistance with respect to certain tax offences, the Member State concerned may indicate, in its exchange of written instruments with the United States of America described in Article 3(2), that, with respect to such offences, it will continue to apply the use limitation provision of that treaty.
 

Article 10
Requesting State's request for confidentiality

The requested State shall use its best efforts to keep confidential a request and its contents if such confidentiality is requested by the requesting State. If the request cannot be executed without breaching the requested confidentiality, the central authority of the requested State shall so inform the requesting State, which shall then determine whether the request should nevertheless be executed.
 

Article 11
Consultations

The Contracting Parties shall, as appropriate, consult to enable the most effective use to be made of this Agreement, including to facilitate the resolution of any dispute regarding the interpretation or application of this Agreement.
 

Article 12
Temporal application

1. This Agreement shall apply to offences committed before as well as after it enters into force.

2. This Agreement shall apply to requests for mutual legal assistance made after its entry into force. Nevertheless, Articles 6 and 7 shall apply to requests pending in a requested State at the time this Agreement enters into force.
 

Article 13
Non-derogation

Subject to Article 4(5) and Article 9(2)(b), this Agreement is without prejudice to the invocation by the requested State of grounds for refusal of assistance available pursuant to a bilateral mutual legal assistance treaty, or, in the absence of a treaty, its applicable legal principles, including where execution of the request would prejudice its sovereignty, security, ordre public or other essential interests.

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Explanatory Note on the Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance between the European Union and the United States of America

This note reflects understandings regarding the application of certain provisions of the Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance between the European Union and the United States of America (hereinafter "the Agreement") agreed between the Contracting Parties.

On Article 8

With respect to the mutual legal assistance to administrative authorities under Article 8(1), the first sentence of Article 8(1) imposes an obligation to afford mutual legal assistance to requesting United States of America federal administrative authorities and to requesting national administrative authorities of Member States. Under the second sentence of that paragraph mutual legal assistance may also be made available to other, that is non-federal or local, administrative authorities. This provision however, is available at the discretion of the requested State.

The Contracting Parties agree that under the first sentence of Article 8(1) mutual legal assistance will be made available to a requesting administrative authority that is, at the time of making the request, conducting investigations or proceedings in contemplation of criminal prosecution or referral of the investigated conduct to the competent prosecuting authorities, within the terms of its statutory mandate, as further described immediately below. The fact that, at the time of making the request referral for criminal prosecution is being contemplated does not exclude that, other sanctions than criminal ones may be pursued by that authority. Thus, mutual legal assistance obtained under Article 8(1) may lead the requesting administrative authority to the conclusion that pursuance of criminal proceedings or criminal referral would not be appropriate. These possible consequences do not affect the obligation upon the Contracting Parties to provide assistance under this Article.

However, the requesting administrative authority may not use Article 8(1) to request assistance where criminal prosecution or referral is not being contemplated, or for matters in which the conduct under investigation is not subject to criminal sanction or referral under the laws of the requesting State.

The European Union recalls that the subject matter of the Agreement for its part falls under the provisions on police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters set out in Title VI of the Treaty on European Union and that the Agreement has been concluded within the scope of these provisions.

On Article 9

Article 9(2)(b) is meant to ensure that refusal of assistance on data protection grounds may be invoked only in exceptional cases. Such a situation could arise if, upon balancing the important interests involved in the particular case (on the one hand, public interests, including the sound administration of justice and, on the other hand, privacy interests), furnishing the specific data sought by the requesting State would raise difficulties so fundamental as to be considered by the requested State to fall within the essential interests grounds for refusal. A broad, categorical, or systematic application of data protection principles by the requested State to refuse cooperation is therefore precluded. Thus, the fact the requesting and requested States have different systems of protecting the privacy of data (such as that the requesting State does not have the equivalent of a specialised data protection authority) or have different means of protecting personal data (such as that the requesting State uses means other than the process of deletion to protect the privacy or the accuracy of the personal data received by law enforcement authorities), may as such not be imposed as additional conditions under Article 9(2a).