Former British Army major tricked foreign governments into sending him tanks

Michael Whatley pretended the armoury was for military museum display

A former British Army major obtained tanks and weapons worth thousands of pounds from European countries by claiming they were for a military museum.

Michael Whatley, 65, contacted authorities in Germany, Belgium and Sweden pretending to be from the Household Cavalry Museum and requested weapons for display.

But in reality, the now “disgraced” former officer was selling some of the tanks for more than £100,000 to private collectors.

He was storing the armoury at a military compound in Wiltshire.

His misconduct was discovered when port officials in Southampton became suspicious that military vehicles were being brought into the country.

In total, 23 vehicles were sent to the UK between 2001 to 2011 and Whatley conducted the fraud while still serving as an officer.

Weapons included a M108 Howitzer tank, a Leopard 1A1 tank, a Flakpanzer Gepard anti-aircraft gun and a Saladin armoured car.

German authorities sent him four T72 tanks, which were originally created by Russia in 1971, a Second World War Marder tank and a Leopard Bergepanzer tank.

He attempted to sell a £100,000 M41 Walker Bulldog obtained from Belgium, whose authorities had also given him a Leopard 1A1 tank, a M108 Howitzer tank and a number of other military vehicles.

Sweden gave him an IKv91 tank.

Judge Andrew Barnett sentenced Whatley to a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years at Salisbury Crown Court after he pleaded guilty to three counts of misconduct in a public office.

“You should be bitterly ashamed of your conduct,” Mr Barnett said.

"If you misbehave to the extent that you have, you not only damage the reputation of the Army but also a very distinguished cavalry regiment.

"That is something you will have to live with for the rest of your life.”

Updated: August 18th 2021, 4:11 PM