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Arbitrary sentences by German courts in cases of tax evasion?

In recent times, worrying feedback has been coming from criminal court practice concerning the treatment of import duty evasion.

An alarming example from real life

A business traveler imports commercial goods into the European Union without properly declaring them. Customs services control the traveler and find an import duty evasion (here import sales tax) in the amount of 1,700 euros. As the business traveler has no address in Germany, the customs authority immediately seizes an amount of 2,000 euros, paid by credit card. The amount of 2,000 euros is supposed to be later set off against the fine to be imposed for evasion of import sales tax.

Thereafter, the customs services move the competent local court to end the proceedings against the traveler due to insignificance, subject to the payment of 2,000 euros. The court however dismisses the motion in respect of the amount and imposes a fine of 10,000 euros.

Photo on Google Maps used as the only indicator

What happened? The competent judge had searched the traveler’s residential address on Google Maps and found that he lived in a “respectable villa”. From that fact alone and without any further questions (e.g. whether the traveler was the owner of the property), the judge concluded that the traveler had to be “wealthy” and that, hence, a fine of 2,000 Euro would not be enough to end the proceedings. Instead, based solely on a photo on the internet pages of Google Maps, the judge considered a fine of 10,000 euros to be an appropriate punishment.

The traveler sought legal representation and took legal action against this kind of determination of the fine. In the end, the proceedings against him were totally dismissed and the 2,000 euros reimbursed to the traveler due to a legal loophole.

Even courts make mistakes

This example shows that trust in German criminal jurisdiction should not be exaggerated. Even German courts make mistakes that may cause immense damage to the persons affected. Especially when criminal proceedings have been instituted, contacting an attorney is strongly recommended.

In such case, you can confidently turn to our attorneys specializing in criminal tax law. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any queries.

Continue reading:
Importing counterfeit products to the EU: more expensive than expected
Customs clearance and German customs law for import and export companies

Stefan Winheller

Attorney Stefan Winheller has specialized in tax law for about 20 years, especially in the areas of cryptocurrencies, foundations/nonprofits and international tax law.

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