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Germany

Germany Jails Investment Star for Four Years

A German court sent Alexander Falk, 38, a former golden boy of German investment, to four years in prison on Friday, convicting him of attempted fraud in the 2000 sale of shares in his company Ision.

Alexander Falk and his lawyer waiting for the court sentence

Alexander Falk (left) and his lawyer will appeal the sentence

Lawyers for Falk, the jet-setting son of a millionaire map publisher, fought every step of the way during a trial lasting three and a half years and made plain they would keep appealing all the way to the highest court if they lost.

The case was one of Germany's main attempts to punish the excesses of the dot-com boom, in which starry-eyed investors in Europe and the United States believed the Internet meant the dawn of a "New Economy."

The Hamburg state court said it was convinced Falk tried to mislead a now vanished British company which bought into his German company Ision as the boom spread.

Ision built websites, still a novel idea at the time, for corporate clients.

Dummy orders

Falk and four other executives who were also on trial had been accused of creating dummy orders to make Ision appear to be worth more than it was, but Falk claimed this would have been exposed by due-diligence checks of its accounts.

Prosecutors failed to prove that the fraud was a complete act, but the court said the initial moves constituted an attempt.

Defense lawyer Thomas Bliwier, who demanded acquittal, said in closing arguments there would be an appeal if Falk lost.

Tall, wealthy and self-confident, Falk raged at spending 22 months in pre-trial custody till he was freed on bail in April 2005.

Falk's four lieutenants received suspended jail terms ranging from eight to 30 months.

The 157 hearing days of the trial began on Dec. 3, 2004.

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