Middelhoff Case

German Justice Sparks Scrutiny

Crime and punishment. Source; DPA
Crime and punishment.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany is debating the merits of Mr. Middelhoff’s immediate jailing after being convicted of embezzlement and tax evasion.

  • Facts


    • Thomas Middelhoff was convicted in November in a court in the city of Essen of charges in connection with his actions while employed by German retailer Arcandor.
    • The case is under appeal but the former chief of German media giant Bertelsmann remains in custody.
    • Green party politician Renate Künast and author Jürgen Todenhöfer are among those taking up his cause.
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Thomas Middelhoff, the ex-boss of media giant Bertelsmann and retailer Arcandor, uttered two sentences on November 14 right after he was convicted of multiple counts of embezzlement and tax evasion and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment: “My brother killed himself. Don’t worry about me.”

His words seemed full of portent at the time and have since been discussed throughout Germany. The two sentences that turned the fate of Mr. Middelhoff, 61, became the subject of long articles and analyses ― just as when he was the high-profile executive of leading Germany companies.

Because of the alleged danger that he would attempt to flee, judge Jörg Schmitt sent Mr. Middelhoff directly to jail ― and because of the danger of suicide, he was monitored intensively. Was that chicanery? Was it revenge against a fallen millionaire who has since filed for bankruptcy, or an assertion of the vengeful claim to justice by 50 creditors? Was it the case of a deliberate demystifying of a towering business figure, who always thought in the dimensions of gigantic deals and never in the category of humility?

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