An international recruitment company is taken to court by one of its workers. Referred to the European Court of Justice, the outcome could change EU labour law for millions of people. The only problem? The worker 'taking' the case knows nothing about it.
Imagine taking a legal case against your employer. The case begins at a District Court level only to hit a legal obstacle that requires a ruling on EU law. And so the case is referred all the way to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. The outcome of your case will set a precedent on the application of EU law in every member state so eight EU states, including Ireland, declare a public position on it. Across Europe the ruling will affect millions of workers in the years to come.
That’s what it might have felt like for Polish man Bogdan Chain when it appears he took an Irish recruitment company, Atlanco Rimec, to court over unpaid social insurance. Atlanco were headquartered in Dublin but registered in Cyprus so Bogdan Chain v Atlanco began in the District Court in Nicosia, Cyprus - and was then referred to the European Court of Justice.
The European Court heard detailed legal arguments on Case 189/14, Bogdan Chain v Atlanco on March 12th, 2015.The only problem? Bogdan Chain says he never took the case. What’s more, he says he wasn’t even aware of it.
In a lengthy and complex investigation, the 'Documentary On One' examines how Case 189/14 Bogdan Chain v Atlanco could go so far - when the man supposedly taking the case knew nothing about it. Bogdan only learned about the case in January 2015 during an interview for this radio documentary.
Shocked to discover his name being misused like this, Bogdan tried to stop the action going any further by writing to the European Court to tell them the case was bogus. To his dismay - and amazement - his objections were overruled. As a Polish citizen he was dismissed by EU administrators in Luxembourg.
The 'Documentary On One - The Case That Never Was' sets out to try and find who took this case - and why it used Bogdan Chain’s name. We discover that the lawyer representing Bogdan at the District Court in Cyprus was directed by a Belgian legal firm who formerly represented the Atlanco Rimec Group, the company named as defendant.
The documentary puts key questions to the legal representatives involved - and to Michael O’Shea, the Kerry businessman who founded the Atlanco Rimec Group.
Arising directly from inquiries made by this documentary the Cypriot Attorney General has ordered a criminal investigation. As a result, Case 189/14 has been withdrawn from the European Court of Justice and was dismissed by the District Court in Cyprus.
Had this documentary not been made, it is quite likely that the European Court of Justice would have ruled on Bogdan Chain v Atlanco and shaped important EU law on social insurance for millions of migrant workers around Europe.
The man whose name almost made legal history is still wondering how this all happened.
Narrated by Frank Shouldice.
Co-produced by Frank Shouldice and Liam O'Brien.
First broadcast @2pm, Saturday 5th December 2015
An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One - the home of Irish radio documentaries.