BERLIN -- A German court on Thursday convicted two former employees of gun maker Heckler & Koch over their role in the delivery of weapons that ended up in troubled areas of Mexico, and ordered the confiscation of proceeds from the sales totaling some 3.7 million euros ($4.2 million).
The Stuttgart state court convicted a former sales manager of exporting goods on the basis of fraudulently obtained permits, and an ex-clerk of being an accessory. They were given suspended sentences of 22 months and 17 months, respectively. Three other defendants — two ex-managers responsible for exports and a deputy sales manager — were acquitted.
The court said the company delivered 4,219 assault rifles, 2 submachine guns and 1,759 ammunition magazines to Mexico, and they were sold on by the central purchasing body there to Jalisco, Chiapas, Chihuahua and Guerrero states. The exports took place in 2006-2009.
It found that the exports to Mexico in and of themselves were covered by German government permits, but that they were fraudulently obtained through knowingly incorrect information based upon unreliable declarations from Mexican authorities on where the weapons would end up.
Human rights groups say firearms delivered to Mexico often end up in the hands of drug cartels.
The Stuttgart court didn't give the defendants' names in a statement detailing Thursday's ruling. It found that the main players in the illegal exports were the now-deceased head of the sales team for business in Mexico and a sales representative for the company in Mexico who didn't show up for the trial. His lawyer said he was too sick to travel.
The verdict can be appealed. Heckler & Koch said in a statement that it will examine it carefully, but it could 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."
The court also could have taken into account Heckler & Koch's support for the proceedings, cooperation with prosecutors and initiation of a special investigation, the company added.
The company said that, as a result of the Mexico case, it has changed its internal compliance system and also subjects "each potential distribution partner to a rigorous compliance audit."