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EU court backs Italy’s imprisonment of Moldovan for Romanian crimes

Moldova is not an EU state, but the ruling focuses on roots that individuals from so-called third countries have formed.

(CN) — A Moldovan man convicted of tax evasion in Romania should be eligible to serve his prison sentence in Italy, where he lives with his wife and son, the European Union's highest court ruled Tuesday.

The European Court of Justice said non-EU citizens — in this case the Moldovan man — should be allowed to serve sentences in an EU country where they have established roots rather than automatically getting sent to the EU country where they have been found guilty.

The Moldovan man, identified only by his initials O.G., challenged an Italian law that says non-EU and non-Italian nationals cannot be allowed to serve sentences issued by other EU states in Italian prisons. He argued the Italian law violated the EU's charter on human rights.

On appeal, Italy's Supreme Court of Cassation and then its Constitutional Court questioned the legality of the Italian law. In November 2021, it asked the EU court in Luxembourg to weigh in.

That body said Tuesday that non-EU nationals — just as happens with EU nationals — should be given a chance to serve sentences where they have established ties. The high court ordered Italian judges to determine if the Moldovan man should remain in Italy. An English translation of the ruling was not immediately available.

Moldova is not part of the EU, though the small country sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania is seeking to join the bloc.

O.G. was convicted in Romania of tax evasion and misappropriation of funds while running a company there between September 2003 and April 2004. He was given a five-year sentence, and a Romanian court in Brasov issued a European arrest warrant for the man in February 2012.

In 2020, the Bologna Court of Appeal ordered O.G. to be handed over to Romanian authorities, but Italy's Supreme Court of Cassation halted the extradition and told the appellate court to consider allowing him to serve his sentence in Italy.

Italy's high court judges noted the Moldovan national works in Italy and lives with an Italian woman and their 12-year-old son.

The Court of Justice said EU courts need to assess whether non-EU citizens are “sufficiently integrated” in the place where they live and have “legitimate interest” in serving sentences there rather than in the EU country where they committed a crime.

Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.

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