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Bulgarians bag German pair for pinching panzer

Taking and driving away - very slowly

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A pair of Germans found guilty of stealing a World War II panzer were given jail sentences in a Bulgarian court yesterday.

Thomas Gmeiner, 36, received four years while Matheus Mayer, 67, was given three years suspended for stealing the tank, and attempting to steal another.

However, the pair were tried and convicted in absentia, as they, and the first tank, had previously skipped the country on bail.

Reports are unclear as to how the pair managed to whisk the MK IV Panzer, which comes in at around 25 tonnes, out of Bulgaria.

While it might tickle some to imagine the pair racing across Eastern Europe in a WWII tank, Wolfie Smith style, and suitably enhanced with modern Bulgarian airbags, the truth is less prosaic - it is thought they engaged local people to dismantle the mighty battle beast.

The Associated Press reports that such tanks sell for around $75,000 on the collectors' market. And at current prices, the TDA-ists might expect to get around $10,000 for scrap.

According to the AP, there were still around 80 German WWII era tanks and artillery pieces stationed in Southern Bulgaria, relics of Cold War recycling of abandoned Wehrmacht kit. ®

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