Criminal Liability of Directors of a Private Limited Company Seated in Germany

Ladiges, Manuel
March 2013
Criminal Law Forum;Mar2013, Vol. 24 Issue 1, p87
Academic Journal
During the last decade, a great number of German businesses formed private limited companies by shares in England and transferred the company's real seat to Germany in order to avoid the minimum capital rules for the German limited liability company. The discrepancy between the place of registration and the real seat leads to questions about the criminal liability of company directors under English and German law. This article shows that English courts have jurisdiction over certain offences regardless of the place the director acted. In particular, he may be convicted for failing to comply with statutory duties under the Companies Act 2006 as well as false accounting or false statements under Theft Act 1968 ss. 17, 19. With respect to German law, the company law reform of 2008 explicitly imposed the duty to file for insolvency on directors of foreign corporations. Also, the criminal offence for failing to file for insolvency in § 15a (4) of the Insolvency Code is compatible with the freedom of establishment under European law. If the director causes a financial loss to the company by breaching his director's duties, he may be convicted for breach of trust under § 266 of the Criminal Code regardless of the fact that the relevant duties are regulated by English law. The German Federal Supreme Court recently held that recourse to English company law in order to establish a criminal breach of trust does not violate the principle of legal certainty in Article 103 (2) of the Basic Law. Furthermore, German bankruptcy offences may apply if the director violates the authoritative English accounting standards.


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