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Criminal law as applicable to customs and foreign trade

Criminal law governing customs and foreign trade is shaped by European and international regulations as well as national standards, and is subject to very dynamic change. As regards customs duties, criminal law follows the national criminal regulations governing tax offences (section 370 Tax Code) and is supplemented by the substantive customs law directly applicable in the EU (Union Customs Code and implementing regulations).

In addition to evasion of taxes and duties (section 370 Tax Code), criminal law governs infringements of import/export restrictions (section 372 Tax Code) and smuggling (section 373 Tax Code).

Legally compliant action is often difficult

Companies engaging in foreign trade must comply with all foreign trade regulations covering their import and export transactions, trading and brokering transactions and of course their capital and payment transactions, in particular the rules applicable to embargo regulations, the prevention of terrorism and money laundering, etc.

Legally compliant action is made difficult by blanket laws and dynamic references to provisions supplementing the criminal law that are assumed to be known. The risk of criminal prosecution is correspondingly high for trading companies, but also for the finance industry, which is among other things subject to complex foreign trade law restrictions on the granting of loans.

The sanctions against Russia reveal the difficulties for the norm addresseeagainst the background of the requirement of certainty. Prohibitions on boycotts apply both in national law and at the EU level, the violation of which can in turn have consequences under criminal law.

The due diligence requirements for companies and the introduction of an obligation for everyone to provide information on embargo violations areparticularly critical.