Economic criminal law / white collar crime

Hanse Strafrechts offers comprehensive professional legal consultation and represents clients nationwide in Germany.

Leading a company and taking financial responsibility for it is often accompanied by the risk of being confronted with crime accusations.

In the past few years the german state legislation has tighten the grip on economic criminal activities and extended penalty laws and administrative sanctions. Personal and economic resources of the prosecution authorities for proactive investigations were massively extended.

But not only the state has propagated a rise of criminal accusations. Furthermore contractual partners in civil agreements have developed a flavor for using the instument of criminal accusations, make complaints to the authorities to force the assertion of civil claims against the other contractual party.

Offenses in the economic criminal law are - directly or indirectly - connected to business activity. Crimes such as

  • theft, § 242 StGB
  • misappropriation, § 246 StGB 
  • embezzlement, § 266 StGB
  • fraud, § 263 StGB
  • computer fraud, § 263a StGB
  • subsidy fraud, § 264 StGB
  • capital investment fraud, § 264a StGB
  • insurance fraud, § 265 StGB
  • credit fraud, § 256b StGB
  • sports betting fraud, § 256c StGB
  • withholding wadges and salaries, § 266a StGB
  • misuse of cheque and credit cards, § 266b StGB
  • extortion § 253 StGB
  • bankruptcy § 283 StGB
  • breach of book-keeping duties, § 283b StGB
  • handling stolen goods § 259 StGB
  • collusive tendering, § 298 StGB

are stated in the special section of the German criminal code Strafgesetzbuch (StGB). Further economic offenses can be found in the German codes which handle the subjects of insolvency (Insolvenzordnung) and taxes (Abgabenordnung).

The accusation itself and the official investigation of a white collar crime can lead to sustainable reputation damage. The first objective of a thought-through defense strategy is to end the investigation at an early stage without getting the media involved. In general the prosecutors will commit the case for trial if their investigations were - from their point of view - successful.

Therefore it is necessary to get in touch with a law firm that is specialized in the defense in economic criminal offences at a very early stage. The law firm Hanse Strafrecht represents and defends companies and executives and gives legal advice in all kinds of questions and situations concerning criminal law.

German criminal law is based on the principle of personal culpability. In consequence a criminal code for companies does not exist. Companies and corporations as legal entities can however still be sanctioned by administrative offence laws or misdemeanor regulations (Ordnungswidrigkeitengesetz, OWiG) and be ordered to pay a fine. This fine is not a crime penalty. It will be imposed by the authorities when a person in a leading position of a company commits a crime or administrative offense that is connected to the company in a direct allocation. Furthermore the requirements for these financial sanctions are not met until the duties of the legal entity or the association were infringed or the legal entity has been enriched unjustly.

The prosecution of economic criminal offences can be transferred to special public prosecutors that are concerned with only this type of crime. The legal proceeding basis is § 143 (1) of the German Judicial Systems Act, Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz (GVG). Those so-called "Schwerpunktstaatsanwaltschaften" can be found - for example - in Hamburg, Berlin, Kiel (for Schleswig-Holstein), Rostock (for Mecklenburg-Vorpommern). Most cases will be held by the court division for business offenses at the district court (Landgericht) which is stated in § 74c GVG.

Special sections of economic criminal law are insolvency criminal law and labour criminal law. Environmental criminal law is also usually connected to crimes related to the economy but is accessory to administarive law.

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