In 2015, authorities seized a 45-ton Panther tank, a flak cannon and multiple other World War II-era military weapons in a raid on a 78-year-old collector's home in northern Germany.
Kiel prosecutor Birgit Hess said the collector was being investigated for possibly violating German weapons laws but remains free while the probe is ongoing.
According to media reports, In the search July 1-2, 2015, investigators also seized a torpedo and multiple other military items in addition to the Panzer V "Panther" tank and the 88mm flak gun. Hess told reporters that German military engineers were called in to haul the tank out of the underground garage of the house in Kitzeberg, near Kiel.
The collector's attorney, Peter Gramsch, told media all the items were properly demilitarized and registered.
Prosecutor Hess said that she did not know whether the main gun on the tank could fire, but it didn't appear to be properly registered and an independent expert said it wasn't properly demilitarized.
News reports indicated the collector came to authorities' attention in an investigation into black market Nazi-era art that in May 2015, turned up two massive bronze horse statues that once stood in front of Adolf Hitler's chancellery. Those were in the possession of another man, who maintains he is the rightful owner.
The tank owner has made no secret of his collection, openly talking about the Panther and other items in media reports following the May revelation of the art investigation.
Now, after six years, prosecutors and defense lawyers negotiated possible penalties, including a suspended sentence and a fine of up to €500,000 (£427,000). At the July 2021 court hearing in the city of Kiel, lawyers were trying to determine whether the man's military collection had violated Germany's War Weapons Control Act. The act regulates the manufacture, sale, and transport of weapons of war.
The defense argued that many of the weapons are no longer functional and that the tank was bought as scrap.
The state district in the northern city of Kiel handed the man a suspended prison sentence of 14 months and ordered him to pay a fine of 250,000 euros (~$300,000), the German news agency dpa reported. Before the court’s verdict was announced, the defendant’s lawyer read out a confession on his client’s behalf.
The defendant, now 84, must also find new homes for the monumental items. The court ordered him to sell or donate the 45-ton tank and the anti-aircraft cannon to a museum or a collector within the next two years.
According to his lawyer, a US museum is interested in purchasing the Panther tank. The lawyer also said that a number of German collectors had approached the defendant over other items, which included assault rifles and pistols, local media report.
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