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Commercial crimes

The law applicable to commercial crimes provides for penalties against misconduct in business life. There is no legal definition: guidance is given by the catalogue of responsibilities for the criminal law divisions with competence for economic crimes in section 74c GVG [Judiciary Law] that lists many more offences besides “classic” crimes such as agreements restricting competition (section 289 StGB [Criminal Code]).

These offences include bribery and corruption in business dealings (section 299 Criminal Code), fraud (section 263 Criminal Code), breach of trust (section 266 Criminal Code), failure to make full payment of social security contributions (section 266a Criminal Code), violations of the trade secrets law (section 23 GeschGehG [Trade Secret Act]), customs and tax offences (section 370 AO [Tax Code]), violations of the foreign trade law (sections 17 ff. AWG [Foreign Trade Law]), as well as insolvency crimes (section 15a InsO [Insolvency Code], sections 283 ff. Criminal Code), violations of the GmbHG [Limited Liability Company Law] and the AktG [Stock Corporation Law] and offences committed in the banking, stock market and credit sectors or when trading securities (WpHG [Securities Trading Law]). Violations of the law on temporary employment (AÜG [Temporary Employment Law]), illegal employment (SchwarzArbG [Illegal Employment Control Law]) and – since June 2019 following the implementation of Directive (EU) 2017/1371 – the standards for the protection of the financial interests of the European Union (EU Financial Protection Enhancement Law) are also deemed to be economic crimes.

In principle, all statutory offences under core criminal law can be committed in an economic business establishment or context

Investigations into commercial crimes will also include the legal regulations applicable to environmental crimes, such as crimes involving (negligent) bodily harm or homicide. All regulations are to be seen against the background of business organisation and the delegation of corporate and management duties. The aim of the legislator as regards criminal law is also, by means of a law to strengthen the integrity of the economy, to create the preconditions for applying criminal sanctions to companies (see also company representation and defence, and criminal compliance).


  • Fraud (§ 263 StGB)
  • Infidelity (§ 266 StGB)
  • Bribery (§ 334 StGB)
  • Granting of advantages (§ 333 StGB)

In subsidiary laws

  • Insolvency delay
  • Drafting of insolvency proceedings (§ 84 GmbHG, § 401 AktG)
  • Violations of Section 34 of the Foreign Trade and Payments Act 
  • Violations of Section 142 PatG German Medicines Act (AMG)