The Sino-German Legal Cooperation Program of GIZ, commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, in cooperation with the Supreme People’s Procuratorate of the People’s Republic of China, hosted a dialogue event on the topic of fines on November 23 and 24.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Guo Lixin, Head of the Theoretical Research Institute of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, referred to the high practical significance of fines in German criminal law and the resulting special interest of the Chinese side in an exchange with Germany on this topic. The subject of his presentation was the historical development of fines in China, several legal provisions on fines as well as practical problems and suggestions for improvement. In China – as well as in Germany –, a fine can be imposed either as the sole penalty or in combination with imprisonment. However, unlike in Germany, the scope of application of fines in China is very narrow, as fines can only be imposed for economic and property offenses. While fines play a major role in sanctioning companies, for private individuals there is a tendency towards imprisonments. In addition, enforcement is problematic; in particular, Chinese law, unlike German law, does not have an imprisonment for failure to pay a fine (“substitute imprisonment”).
Prof. Weigend (University of Cologne), Ms. Lindner, Public Prosecutor (Kleve Public Prosecutor’s Office), and Dr. Jens Peglau, Presiding Judge at the Higher Regional Court (Hamm Higher Regional Court) presented in their lectures the theoretical basis and the imposition of fines from the perspective of the public prosecutor’s office and the court. One focus of the lectures was the two-step procedure in the formation of the fine: in the first step, the number of daily rates is determined, and in the second step, the value of the daily rate. The number of daily rates is determined by how many days of imprisonment the offender would have to serve. Thus, while the number of daily rates is based solely on the guilt of the offender, the value of the daily rates is based solely on the economic circumstances of the offender. Thus, in general, the value of a daily rate corresponds to one thirtieth of the offender’s monthly net income. The amount of money to be paid by the offender as a fine is calculated by multiplying the number of daily rates by their value. Prof. Weigend confirmed the initially expressed great practical importance of fines in Germany: 86% of the criminal sanctions imposed are fines.
Mr. Luo Qingdong, prosecutor of the first hierarchical degree and deputy department head of the first department of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, and Mr. Wu Qiaobin, prosecutor of the third hierarchical degree and head of the legal application research unit of the legal policy research department of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, dealt with current issues of fines in China in their presentation. For example, Mr. Luo Qingdong introduced the power of the Procuratorate to make recommendations on the sentencing of fines. This is a system of mitigating sentences in the case of an offender who confessed and accepts his sentence. This system has a long tradition for imprisonments, but for fines, the system needs further development. In his presentation, Mr. Wu Qiaobin shed light on the relation between so-called administrative sanctions (sanctions imposed by administrative authorities, such as administrative fines and revocation of permits) on the one hand and criminal fines on the other.
In the discussion rounds following the respective presentations, the effects, background and practical problems in connection with the imposition of fines formed the core of many questions and comments. Thus, the participants discussed the special prevention effect of fines compared to imprisonment, the question whether the amount of a fine should vary depending on the economic circumstances of an offender, and the enforcement options for indigent offenders. Especially at the end of the event, after both sides had been informed about the other legal system by the lectures, finding similarities and differences between the two systems was another focus of interest for the participants.
The Sino-German Legal Cooperation Program of GIZ will continue the exchange with the Supreme People’s Procuratorate in the upcoming year. As a result of the Chinese side’s interest in German money laundering regulations, Mr. Feige, legal advisor of the Sino-German Legal Cooperation Program of GIZ, suggested in his closing remarks that the next exchange could focus on this dynamic topic.