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'Boos' echoed in the courtroom as Judge Frank Maurer stated that a former H&K CEO, the executive with the most contact with government expert authorities, was found not guilty.
Gun manufacturer Heckler & Koch (H&K) has been ordered by a German court to pay 3.7 million euros for the illegal exportation of thousands of military-grade assault rifles to a central government buyer in Mexico and violating Germany's War Weapons Control Act.
Five ex-employees of the German gun manufacturer were put on trial, but only two employees – from administrative positions – were given suspended prison sentences. 'Boos' echoed in the courtroom as Judge Frank Maurer stated that a former H&K CEO, the executive with the most contact with government expert authorities, was found not guilty.
"From this verdict, we see what a problem it is that, in Germany, we have no way of prosecuting a company. It's in the nature of the process that the bosses never leave a paper trail. It will also be very difficult to prosecute CEOs," ex-Left Party Member of Parliament Jan van Aken said.
Two others were also acquitted, and accusations of cases of alleged bribery, both in Germany and Mexico, are still being investigated.
The guns are made in the south-western town of Oberndorf and have been used by troops and militias in Pakistan, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey. The guns sold to Mexico from 2006-2009, a time when Germany was prohibited from exporting guns to the country's high-risk locations, were confirmed to have been used in the kidnapping of 43 college students in Iguala, Guerrero.
The brother of Aldo Gutierrez Solano, a student shot in the head in the Iguala disaster, was denied an application to testify as a co-plaintiff, "to show what consequences the sale of the weapons had." Gutierrez pointed out that no one in Mexico has been prosecuted for the illegal sale of weapons.
Along with the Mexican government's failure to bring justice to those involved, Juergen Grasslin, the whistleblower who brought the lawsuit against H&K in 2010, has criticized the German government of failing to properly oversee weapons sales.
The trial raised suspicions about the involvement of Germany's Ministry of Economic Affairs for advising the company on how to write their end-use declarations to facilitate approval of the exports. An Economic Affairs Ministry official pointed out the conflict of interest in this case since the ministry considers its basic function to support German firms, especially one that supplies the German military.
While H&K said it has cooperated with the investigation and implemented internal measures to prevent similar occurrences, the gunmaker claimed to "not understand the Court's decision that we should not only forfeit the profit generated on the Mexico business but instead forfeit the entire sales price, despite the fact that none of the directors committed an offense."