01/26/2009 05:54 PM

Zumwinkel Verdict

Ex-CEO of Deutsche Post Avoids Jail in Tax Evasion Case

The former CEO of Deutsche Post, Klaus Zumwinkel, got a suspended two-year sentence and a €1 million fine for tax evasion at his trial on Monday. Critics say the verdict smacks of a deal with prosecutors after he confessed to what he called "the greatest mistake of my life."

Klaus Zumwinkel, former CEO of Deutsche Post AG, in court to hear his verdict on Monday.
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Klaus Zumwinkel, former CEO of Deutsche Post AG, in court to hear his verdict on Monday.

Klaus Zumwinkel, the former chief executive of Deutsche Post AG on trial for evading just under €1 million in taxes, managed to avoid jail on Monday when a court sentenced him to a two-year suspended sentence and a fine of €1 million ($1.3 million).

Zumwinkel, 65, had admitted at the start of his trial last week that he had evaded tax by investing the money in a foundation in Liechtenstein, an Alpine tax haven, without declaring the proceeds to German tax authorities.

Presiding Judge Wolfgang Mittrup said Zumwinkel had "knowingly, meticulously, enduringly and thus criminally evaded taxes."

In a show of contrition that observers believe helped to reduce his sentence, Zumwinkel confessed and told the court last week that "it was the biggest mistake of my life." He quit Deutsche Post, Germany's biggest mail and logistics group, last February after prosecutors launched the case against him.

He is the highest-profile suspect in a series of investigations of Germans suspected of evading tax through investments in Liechtenstein.

Tax officials and prosecutors launched raids after the German intelligence service paid an informant for a DVD containing names of suspects.

Critics say that while Zumwinkel's sentence wasn't unusual for a tax evasion case, it nevertheless smacks of a deal between the prosecution and the defense that was similar to other cases involving high-profile, well-heeled defendants.

cro -- with wire reports


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