The Austrian Criminal Law Amendment Act I 2016 was published on 20.05.2016 in the Gazette 26/2016 [BGBl I 26/2016]. The majority of the provisions contained, came into force as of June 1, 2016.
This new law provides, inter alia, prosecutorial access to information from the newly implemented general accounts register (“Kontenregister”) upon order of the public prosecutor. The rules in question (section 116 of the Austrian Criminal Procedural Code) will come into force on August 1st, 2016. We expect this to develop into a powerful tool in tracing assets obtained, removed or secreted through fraud, corruption and money laundering. Cross border cooperation between Austrian and other prosecution authorities will be enhanced.
In addition, the prohibition of a standing circumvention lawyers’ privilege (section 157 para 2 of the of the Austrian Criminal Procedural Code) has finally been enacted. The provision will come into force on November 12th, 2016. It expressly provides protection against the seizure of attorney/client-work product (documents and information) in possession of the accused or related targets. In the past, the Austrian prosecution authorities have held the opinion that attorney/client-work product can be seized at the client’s premises with impunity. The lawyers’ privilege was only respected at the lawyer’s office. The strong criticism of this practice has now led to the current clarification by the lawmakers. Beginning on November 12th, attorney/client work products will be protected against seizure, and considered to be privileged, not only at the lawyer’s office, but also if in possession of the client or a related target. It remains unclear how the authorities will deal with documents seized at the premises of a third party.