BERLIN – A German court ordered on Thursday the country’s largest weapon manufacturer to pay a $3.7-million euro ($4.2 million) fine for having illegally exported weapons to Mexico.
The Stuttgart court also sentenced two former Heckler & Koch employees to probation within the trial against five former H&K staffers.
The verdict handed one of the former employees a year and 10 months’ probation and an 80,000-euro fine, while another ex-worker was sentenced to serve one year and five months of probation and 250 hours of community service.
The other three accused were released without charges.
Although the weapons manufacturer was not directly charged, it will still have to pay the steep fine, which amounts to the same figure obtained by the sale of 4,700 G36 assault weapons and components to Mexican conflict areas, according to German regional broadcaster SWR.
The prosecution had said that the five accused had violated German arms exports control legislation in several instances.
Germany introduced self-imposed limits on its arms trade back in 1998, a legislative effort that is still considered exemplary by many NGOs.
During the court’s opening session last May, prosecutor Karl-Heinz Erkert said the five accused had sold some 4,700 G36 assault weapons, heavy machine-guns and ammunition to areas of Mexico where violence is rampant, which implies that no German export permits can be issued there.
The G36 is an assault rifle that was designed in the early 1990s by H&K to replace its heavier G3 battle rifle.
In 1997, the German Army (Bundeswehr) replaced its aging G3s with the new G36, which is gas-operated and has a 30-round detachable box magazine or a 100-round C-Mag drum magazine.
The prosecutors had requested prison sentences ranging from 22 to 33 months for three of the accused and the release without charges for the other two.
The main argument presented by the defendants was that the Mexican ministry of defense was ultimately responsible for the weapons’ final destination in Mexico and that they had signed a certificate of final destination, which should have ensured that the weapons would not end in a conflictive region.
Despite its strict arms export legislation, Germany ranks among the world’s largest weapons exporters.