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Trial in Bonn: Cum-Ex case challenges district court

Trial in Bonn : Cum-Ex case challenges district court

With the Cum-Ex scandal, Bonn district court faces one of its biggest challenges. The main file together with special notebooks and supplementary files contain around 20,000 pages.

At the beginning of 2018, it finally became clear that Bonn district court would be the legal venue for the so-called Cum-Ex scandal that some consider the biggest tax theft in German economic history. In other words, Cum-Ex also represents one of Bonn district court’s greatest challenges in terms of process and logistics.

“No court craves such large proceedings,” admits district court president Stefan Weismann, “as its extent goes beyond the normal load on a criminal court.” But, Weismann argues in a conversation with the GA, “a constitutional state must also cope with such proceedings and not capitulate in the face of complicated structures.” Or as one observer on the sidelines of the successful start of the trial put it: “Everyone should know that we also have rods out for the big fish.”

Federal Central Tax Office located in Bonn

People in Bonn had plenty of time to prepare for the complex and extensive proceedings, whose main file together with special notebooks and supplementary files contain around 20,000 pages. The public prosecutor’s office in Cologne, a specialist authority for criminal tax law, had already given Bonn the first indications that the mammoth proceedings were coming to the local district court at the end of 2017.

The reason is that Bonn is the location of the Federal Central Tax Office. The steering committee of Bonn district court reacted immediately. In March 2018, a new economic criminal chamber, the 12th Grand Criminal Chamber, was set up specifically for the first criminal trial in the Cum Ex matter alongside the two existing ones. Three professional judges from NRW were approved for them and were largely released for the preparation of the tax fraud case involving billions of euros.

German state defrauded of around 440 million Euros

The practical preparations alone were unusual. First, the indictment against two British investment bankers, who are alleged to have defrauded the German state of around 440 million euros, had to be translated in advance into English. Three Bonn translation offices worked in parallel for half a year on 653 pages containing difficult specialist material. Bonn has also installed an interpreter’s booth especially for the trial so that simultaneous translations can be made.

If the two British men are convicted, according to the district court president, “then things will really start happening in Bonn. Then lots more Cum-Ex proceedings, some with more prominent defendants, will come to us and keep us busy for at least another ten years.”

“We are well prepared, I hope,” says Weismann after the start of the proceedings, which was watched worldwide – as far as Australia – and which was also “widely covered” by the international press.

(Original text: Ulrike Schödel. Translation: kc)