Mr Leymann and Mr Pustovarov were wanted in Finland for illegally importing drugs into Finland. The Finnish authorities sent a European arrest warrant to the Polish authorities for Mr Leymann and the Spanish authorities for Mr Pustovarov. The warrants stated that they were suspected of committing a serious drug trafficking offence, between January 1st 2005 and March 31st 2006 in the case of Mr Leymann and between February 19th and 25th, 2006 in the case of Mr Pustovarov. According to the arrest warrants, the offence related to a large quantity of amphetamines. The arrest warrant for Mr Pustovarov also mentioned two separate offences.
Leymann and Pustovarov were surrendered to the Finnish authorities on the basis of those arrest warrants and were remanded in custody. Some time later, the indictment against Mr Leymann and Mr Pustovarov stated that the serious drug trafficking offence concerned not amphetamines but hashish and had been committed between February 15th and 26th 2006. A new arrest warrant with those changes was sent to the Spanish authorities, but the latter did not consent until much later. Leymann and Pustovarov meanwhile were both convicted at first instance and sentenced to imprisonment for that offence and, in the case of Mr Pustovarov, also for the two separate offences.
Leymann and Pustovarov appealed and argued that they had been convicted for an offence other than that for which they had been surrendered, contrary to the ‘specialty rule’ in Council Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA of June 13th 2002 on the European Arrest Warrant and the surrender procedures between Member States.
The Finnish Supreme Court referred a number of questions on the exact scope of the specialty rule and in particular whether the changes made to description of the facts and the nature of the offences in this case went beyond that which was permitted by it.
The Court of Justice held that it was possible to change the description of the facts in the course of proceedings and to describe more precisely or amend the ingredients of the offence without breaching the specialty rule. While it is always possible to prosecute a person for a different offence from the one specified in the arrest warrant with the consent of the member State executing the warrant, such consent is not required for changes and amendments which do not result in a different characterization of the offence.
Consequently, in the present case, the changes and amendments made were acceptable and consent was not required.
It is a credit to the Court of Justice that it managed to hand down its judgment in less than two months.For previous cases using this procedure see here and here.