A German pensioner who kept a Second World War Nazi tank in his basement for more than 30 years was yesterday given a 14-month suspended jail sentence and fined €50,000.
The 84-year-old, named only as Klaus-Dieter F under German privacy laws, admitted breaking the country’s War Weapons Control Act in a plea bargain to avoid being sent to prison.
He also agreed to pay a further €200,000 to charity under the terms of the deal.
As well as a 1943 Panther tank, he also kept an 88mm anti-aircraft gun, a torpedo, a mortar, 70 assault rifles and more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition in the basement of his villa in Heikendorf, a wealthy suburb of Kiel in northern Germany.
Prosecutors stumbled on the trove of weapons when they searched his home looking for stolen Nazi artworks after a tip-off in 2015. Lawyers for Klaus-Dieter F initially argued the weapons were a collection of memorabilia and were all deactivated and could no longer be used.
But the judge rejected that and urged the defence and prosecution to agree a plea bargain to spare the 84-year-old jail time.
While Klaus-Dieter F is understood to be wealthy, he will have some help raising funds to pay the fine and charitable donations after the judge rejected calls to confiscate the weapons.
Instead, he ordered Klaus-Dieter F to sell the tank and anti-aircraft gun to a museum or approved collector within two years.
A museum in Seattle is understood to be negotiating to buy the tank, while a private collector in Germany has expressed interest in the anti-aircraft gun.
Prosecutors alleged they also found extensive Nazi memorabilia in the basement, including swastikas, SS runes and mannequins in Nazi uniform, but these claims were not examined during the trial.
The German army had to be called in to help remove the tank and anti-aircraft gun from the cellar when they were first discovered.
The Panther, considered one of the most effective tanks of the Second World War, weighed 44 tons.