A German pensioner found to be hoarding a World War II Nazi tank and and a huge arsenal of weaponry in his cellar has been fined more than £200,000.
Former financial broker Klaus-Dieter Flick, 84, was storing the 1943 Panther (Panzer) tank in his villa in the town of Heikendorf in the district of Plon, in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.
Flick has claimed that he bought the tank as scrap in the UK in 1977, and had even collaborated with the Bundeswehr, who had helped him repair the engine and charged him EUR 28,317 (GBP 24,336) for the service.
However, the court heard of how the retiree had broken the War Weapons Control Act by hoarding it away in his cellar.
As well as being fined €250,000, or £213,000, Flick has also been given a suspended prison sentence of 14 months.
In addition to the 45-ton Panzer, the German had a whole arsenal of World War II military equipment stored in his basement, including a mortar, a 3.5-inch anti-aircraft gun and a torpedo.
The whole stash was seized from Flick’s home by the military police in 2015.
A police officer who conducted the May 2015 search, which had initially been a probe for Nazi art, gave evidence before the trial, telling of his amazement when he switched on the light.
Upon seeing illuminated SS runes hanging on the wall and the huge Wehrmacht tank in the basement corner, he reported the haul and notified prosecutors, which resulted in a raid that made international headlines.
According to reports from local media, it took 20 soldiers around nine hours to recover the Panther from the 84-year-old man’s home.
Alexander Orth, mayor of Heikendorf at the time, claimed Flick had been spotted driving the Panther around town decades before.
"He was chugging around in it during the snow catastrophe in 1978. I took this to be the eccentricity of an old man, but it looks like there's more to it than that,” he said.
Flick's trial, during which he had to answer for violating Germany's War Weapons Control Act, commenced at the Kiel District Court on 28th May.
His lawyer Gerald Goecke argued that the seized weapons were no longer functional and therefore should not be restricted. "There are no legally binding demilitarisation requirements,” he added.
Flick had a perfect record prior to the trial he said, before going on to explain his collection had merely been created for “historical collection purposes.
However, the presiding judge threw out the lawyer's argument and agreed with the public prosecutor Torsten Wolke, who stated "all things on the war weapons list are forbidden."
Flick was ordered to sell the tank and the weaponry within the following two years to a museum or a suitable expert collector, and was prohibited from storing them on his property again.
According to Flick’s lawyer, he had already had multiple expressions of interest; from both a museum and a private collector.
The judgment, which was announced on Tuesday, was not yet final, with both the accused and the public prosecutor having the right to appeal within a week.