Court: Incorrect wealth declaration in housing application constitutes forgery

The top court has ruled that making erroneous or fraudulent income and asset declarations during government housing applications will constitute forgery.

It is another judicial interpretation made by the Court of Final Appeal (TUI), following a case last week about the legal status of casino employees.

In this case, the debate was about whether making such declarations while applying for social housing – a government housing rental program– would be a violation of the law against document forgery.

The debate started in 2021, during Case 372/2021, when the Court of Second Instance (TSI) convicted a group of defendants of committing document forgery during their application for social housing. The TSI found the declaration fitted the Penal Code’s definition of “document.”

However, the Public Prosecutions Office (MP) found this interpretation confusing, because the same court, during Case 504/2021, had acquitted similarly accused defendants of document forgery. During this case, the TSI found the declaration did not fit the legal definition for a “document of importance.”

Therefore, the MP filed an extraordinary appeal.

After the hearing sessions, the top court made the aforementioned judgment. During the extraordinary appeal, it said the Penal Code stipulates three criteria for defining documents.

“The document will have to materially represent a declaration of human will; it will have to be able to prove what it contains and the legally relevant facts; and, the author must be recognizable,” stated the court. “The legally relevant fact is any fact that establishes, modifies or terminates a legal relationship.”

The court added the income and asset declaration must be submitted and duly signed by the applicants as a component of the application document “with the aim to reveal the inadequate economic condition of the applicants.”

“[The declaration] is undoubtedly, in the process of applying for social housing units, a fact of legal importance,” the court said. It added that when combined with the fact that applicants who do not meet the economic conditions will be eliminated, the declaration “is a fact that establishes a legal relationship.”

Despite changes to laws, the court understood inadequate economic conditions as a key factor for social housing applications. Moreover, logically speaking, wealth declaration remains a component of an application form, although no such express reference to “declaration” is made in current application procedures, the court added.

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