September Special Edition 2022

A recognized expert in criminal law, especially relating to taxes, customs, clandestine employment, weapons of war, and dual-use goods: B. J. Fehn of FEHN Legal


“I taught criminal law and criminal procedure law to customs investigators at the Customs Criminal Investigation Institute in 1988 and 1989. This was my first job.”

Bernd Josef Fehn studied law at the University of Cologne, where he was also awarded his first research doctorate in 1987 with a thesis on environmental regulations. Even during his legal preparatory period, his instructors recognized his exceptional legal talent. A year later, in 1988, he joined the Federal Customs Administration. Since 1990, as a government director in the Federal Ministry of Finance, in particular, he was the Ministry's litigation representative before all courts in Germany and legal advisor in administrative law, as well as he rendered outstanding services to the reparation and liquidation of the consequences of World War II. After that, he also wrote two books on those last mentioned topics, which he co-authored with three colleagues and two highly renowned university teachers.

Later, for quite a few years, B. J. Fehn was deputy head of the Foreign Trade Surveillance Department of the Customs Criminal Investigation Bureau and rebuilt - under his new management - its division for the technical telecommunications surveillance shaken before by a corruption scandal under a different management, led the unit for monitoring postal traffic and was instrumental in drafting a bill on the Customs Investigation Service Act, for which he also co-edited a legal commentary and a legal handbook that had a unique selling point on the market.

Due to his excellent tax expertise, he was appointed judge by assignment to the Baden-Wurttemberg High Tax Court for one year in 2002. In 2004, he moved to the Financial Control of Clandestine Employment and edited a compendium and the leading legal commentary on the Clandestine Employment Control Act. Based on his many years of affiliation with the work units that make up content a federal financial police force (Customs Investigation Service, Financial Control of Clandestine Employment) in the capacity of an investigator of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, Dr. Fehn has outstanding knowledge and experience in criminal law, police law, foreign trade law, and tax law. This is evidenced by countless publications in legal journals and books.

Having previously contributed to a commentary on export law, as well as to three handbooks on tax and white-collar criminal law and labor criminal law, respectively, a new practical handbook on foreign trade law coming soon will also take place with his participation.

In particular, he is considered a recognized expert in criminal law, especially relating to taxes, customs, clandestine employment, weapons of war, and dual use goods. His former contribution to the commentary on export law was even cited by the Federal Constitutional Court in a case concerning §§ 39 ff. Foreign Trade and Payments Act in the old version (telecommunications surveillance). Up to date, it is to be expected that the same will occur in two ongoing proceedings before the Federal Constitutional Court with two essays in the journal Tax Consultancy on issues of definitive taxation and treaty override.

The CSI chapter in the Munich Lawyers' Handbook on Criminal Defense educates the defense attorney about early mistakes that can be made by the police to the detriment of the defendant. In the anthology Administration – Ethics – Human Rights, he addresses the question of whether police rights have now gone too far. As a team player, he enjoys writing with famous co-authors, as well as defending with acknowledged bar colleagues.

He was always interested in medicine and also wanted to be busy in the field of medical criminal law in the highest level. Dr. Fehn left the civil service in 2015 and decided to pursue doctoral studies in theoretical medicine at the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Witten/Herdecke, which he completed with a distinction in 2017. He was admitted to the bar for the first time in 2016 and appointed as a tax advisor for the first time in 2017. Since 2018, furthermore, he has been serving as a lecturer for police and regulatory law, as well as administrative enforcement law at the North Rhine - Westphalian University for Police and Public Administration. He was also appointed an associated member of its Institute for History and Ethics in the following year.

In 2021, he joined FEHN Legal, a criminal law boutique founded by his brother Karsten in 2004, and became an appointed member of Tax & Legal Excellence, reviewed by an independent board in the same year. This high-standard quality circle of representatives from justice, politics, business, administration, and the consulting community can make contributions to solving global and national problems in the fields of economics, finance, tax, and law.

Q. Dr. Fehn, it seems that you can draw on the full range of your knowledge and skills to represent clients at FEHN Legal. But which areas of law are you most fond of?

Well now, the client and his rights are in the foreground. The defense counsel has the task of ensuring a fair trial. The area of law is secondary to this, but I do admit that I particularly enjoy criminal tax law, white collar crime law, and medical criminal law. Defense in killing cases can also be exciting.

Q. So you would also defend a murderer, Dr. Fehn?

First of all, everyone is presumed innocent and has the right to a fair trial. That also applies to murder suspects, as well as to other extraordinarily bad cases (genocide, terrorism, crimes against children, and crimes against sexual self-determination, for example).

Moreover, one should take a very close look at the motives for the felony, if someone is guilty. They can be completely different: Just compare a woman who has been tortured by her husband for years and finally can't stand it anymore, with a man who sexually abuses a child and kills it to cover up his crime. The motives have an impact on the amount of the penalty and are therefore very significant.

Q. Dr. Fehn, can you tell us about national and international cases that you have recently been or are right now involved in?

As an attorney-at-law, it was or still is about a major Cum/Ex proceeding on the side of an international financial institution, the evasion of taxes on revenues from advertising in big sports arenas in connection with several criminal tax proceedings, as well as litigation before the administrative courts on account of the denial of diplomatic protection to a blameless German citizen unjustly detained in extradition custody in Slovenia for alleged conspiracy in the U.S. Formerly, that used to be my involvement in foreign trade monitoring on the side of the Public Prosecutor’s Office. This significant number of years of experience help me a lot as a defense lawyer now.

Q. When did you become interested in criminal law, Dr. Fehn?

It started during my legal clerkship: Cases from criminal tax law and criminal narcotics law were brought before the district court to which I was assigned, and I visited what was then the Customs Criminal Investigation Institute – the predecessor of the Customs Criminal Investigation Bureau – with my training judge. After the completion of my training, I taught criminal law and criminal procedure law to customs investigators at the institute in 1988 and 1989. This was my first job. Around this time, I also taught criminal law in a study group at the University of Cologne.

Q. Dr. Fehn, to what extent can your medical doctoral studies be of use to you in medical criminal cases?

My medical studies help me to understand the practice of the medical profession, its processes and risks, the treated diseases, and, last but not least, the medical language. Our experience is that the vast majority of physicians, dentists, and hospitals are outspokenly responsible with the lives and health of their patients. But unfortunately, to err is human and mistakes happen, even if this should not be the case. This is where a medical criminal lawyer comes in.

“My medical studies help me to understand the practice of the medical profession, its processes and risks, the treated diseases, and, last but not least, the medical language.“

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