Violations of EU Sanctions and German foreign trade law, including Germany’s export control regime, may be punished as criminal offenses or as administrative offenses. Intentional violations constitute a criminal offense. Negligent violations constitute administrative offenses.
Any individual who commits or participates in a corruption offense is subject to criminal liability. Depending on the gravity of the crime and other individual factors, penalties range from fines to a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment.
Separately, the owner of a business (e.g., an owner-manager), its statutory representatives (e.g., the CEO or management board), and certain other individuals tasked with overseeing compliance within a business or parts thereof (e.g., CCO, country manager) may be subject to administrative fines if the individual intentionally or negligently failed to prevent employees from committing sanctions violations (Section 130 Act on Regulatory Offenses (“Ordungswidrigkeitengesetz”, (OWiG)). Those fines may be up to EUR 1 million in cases of intentional conduct.
Criminal liability of corporations does not exist in Germany. While several laws were proposed in past years introducing corporate criminal liability, as of now, criminal offenses may be committed only by individuals, even if the individual acts on behalf or for the benefit of a corporation.
However, legal entities are subject to administrative fines if certain individuals within the entity commit a criminal or administrative offense.
Sanctions violations committed by directors and officers (e.g., CEO, board members), senior management, supervising managers or other leading representatives of a corporation may result in an administrative fine of up to EUR 10 million (Section 30(2) Act on Regulatory Offenses) in cases of intentional conduct and EUR 500,000 in case of negligent conduct.
It may thus be that one sanctions violation triggers several different penalties, e.g., prison time for the perpetrator and any accessories to the crime, an administrative fine for a supervising manager and a further administrative fine for the company. This does not constitute double jeopardy, because different persons or entities are held accountable for their individual acts and omissions.
Furthermore the authorities may choose to confiscate all economic proceeds resulting from the corruption offense (Section 73 et seq. GCC; Section 29 Act on Regulatory Offenses). In practice, the confiscation is often regarded as the “real” sanction as it may surpass the maximum fine imposable under German law.