Does the urban planner heir have to go to jail?

Berlin. For Alexander Falk, November 23, 2022 is about pretty much everything. The man, who is either heir to the publishing house or the city planner, is awaiting a decision from the Federal Court of Justice as to whether he should be put behind bars.

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It would not be the first time.

Falk, now 53 years old, was not born on the dark side of life – at least financially. The son of the Falk city map publisher Gerhard Falk and his second wife Evelyn grew up in the upmarket Hamburg district of Blankenese. When the father died in 1978, he left Alexander and his sister Janina shares in the map publishing company.


In 1996 both turned their inheritance into cash. Bertelsmann AG paid 50 million Deutschmarks for it. With his share, Alexander Falk started a dazzling entrepreneurial career in what was then the new Internet economy. He was particularly successful with the founding of the Internet service provider Ision in 1998. In the meantime, the climber was one of the 100 richest Germans.

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In March 2000, part of the company, which at that time had 30,000 business customers, some of them very well-known, went public. At the end of the year, the British competitor Energis took over the shop for 812 million euros – and choked on it.

Alexander Falk (centre) with his defense attorneys Daniel Wölky (left) and Björn Gercke in the Frankfurt district court.

Alexander Falk (centre) with his defense attorneys Daniel Wölky (left) and Björn Gercke in the Frankfurt district court.

Because just two years after the IPO, Ision and Energis went bankrupt. The Hamburg data center could still be sold for 3.4 million. Energis blamed the major shareholder of the Swiss Ision majority owner, Distefora Holding, for the bankruptcy: Alexander Falk. He is said to have artificially inflated the takeover price with bogus sales of more than 10 million euros.

First release from prison

After a long trial in May 2008, Falk was sentenced to four years in prison for attempted collective fraud and accounting falsification. An appeal before the Federal Court of Justice was unsuccessful. Falk was sentenced to prison and was released in August 2011 after serving two-thirds of his sentence.

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By then, the securities trading and investment bank Hornblower Fischer AG, in which Falk was the majority shareholder, had had to file for insolvency as a result of the investigation. In 2012, the entrepreneur was also sentenced to pay 209 million euros in damages to the Energis insolvency administration. Then it became quiet around Falk.

But the Ision process and the financial consequences are said to have never let go of him.

Like a cheap crime thriller

While Falk was still in prison at Glasmoor, the Frankfurt business lawyer Wolfgang J. worked as a lawyer at Clifford Chance, later at DLA Piper, for the insolvency administrators of the bankrupt British company Energis, which demanded 763 million euros from Falk.

J. secured the administrators access to 50 million euros in Falk’s assets or its holding company. Bank accounts, two yachts and land, all owned by Falk, were also seized.

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Eventually things escalated like a cheap detective story.

Tangible threats

After several attempts at intimidation and tangible threats, an unknown attacked the lawyer in front of his house in the Main metropolis in February 2010 and seriously injured the lawyer with a shot in the left thigh when J. was about to get into his car.

While still in the ambulance, J. voiced his suspicions to the police: “I am conducting proceedings against Alexander Falk, a multi-millionaire from Hamburg. He’s behind the attack, please have his mobile phone tapped.”

But only eight years later, on September 4, 2018, Alexander Falk was arrested in Hamburg-Altona. It is about the suspicion of attempted incitement to murder the Frankfurt lawyer. In December, charges were filed, based primarily on a tape recording and a dubious witness for the prosecution. The trial before the Frankfurt Regional Court will begin in August 2019.

victim marked for life

On July 9, 2020, the verdict came: four and a half years in prison for inciting dangerous bodily harm. Falk protests his innocence, his lawyers are appealing. The entrepreneur is – at least until the possible confirmation of the judgment by the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) – at large.

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More than twelve years after the crime with a victim marked for life, the federal judges must now decidewhether the Frankfurt judgment satisfies constitutional criteria. The defense attorneys pointed out that the original charge was incitement to murder combined with incitement to dangerous bodily harm, but that Falk had been convicted of another act – namely incitement to dangerous bodily harm.

In addition, the defense attorneys argue, the interrogation of the suspect brothers E., who Falk is said to have used and who are said to be in Turkey, did not take place. This could prove to be a serious reason for not yet finalizing the proceedings.

Three options

Process observers currently identify three options that the BGH has:

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  1. The judges declined an appeal and Alexander Falk has to start his prison sentence.
  2. The BGH overturned the decision of the regional court and referred it back to a complete renegotiation.
  3. The BGH reverses the decision of the district court and decides itself.

Only the third option would have charm for Alexander Falk. Then the judges of the BGH would have come to the conclusion that the wrong act had been accused in Frankfurt. In this case, the multi-millionaire could be accused of inciting dangerous physical harm.

But this act would now be statute-barred – and Alexander Falk a free man.

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