A Black Country motor mechanic was part of a plot to steal £350,000 of scrap military equipment after a manager at a Midland Army base was bribed with nearly £3,000, a jury heard yesterday.

Ministry of Defence police found tank tracks which, the prosecution at Stafford Crown Court claimed, had been stolen in a "manipulation of the system" between January 2000 and May 2002 at the giant Army Repair Base Organisation at Donnington, Telford, Shropshire.

Mark Heywood, prosecuting, said: "Large volumes of scrap generated at ABRO have considerable value and when a Ministry of Defence police searched an airfield warehouse several miles away they found tank tracks worth £350,000 which the prosecution say was stolen from ABRO in the course of a conspiracy."

Glynn Barrows (49), of Mayfair Gardens, Tipton, Sandwell; Harold Lee (57), of Fleetwood, Lancashire but formerly of Telford, Shropshire, and Graham Pengelly (43) of Poole, Dorset, all deny conspiracy to steal property belonging to the MoD.

Pengelly, who ran a company called International Procurement and Marketing, denied three charges of corruption by offering £2,900 in inducements to Lee who pleaded not guilty to three charges of corruptly accepting the money.

"Pengelly was involved in the trade of military spares and refurbished equipment and was in a position to trade profitably in materials he and Lee could steal from ABRO," said Mr Heywood.

"Lee, we allege, exploited his position in ABRO as logistics manager and his standing at the base to get round the proper procedure of using approved contractors to dispose of scrap materials."

It was claimed the defendants invented and used a false business identity, called SPS Nottingham, and hired lorries to remove stolen materials from the base, bypassing the weighbridge. It was also alleged they used false details on relevant passes which Lee would obtain and could be disposed of after the lorries had gone. Pengelly, the court heard, stored the stolen material in warehouses at High Ercall between Telford and Shrewsbury.

"Barrows is a self-employed motor mechanic and began to work for Pengelly in about October 2000. He arranged to hire lorries to remove materials from ABRO and assisted Pengelly in refurbishing equipment for him to sell on," said Mr Heywood.

He said ABRO was an arm of the MoD which provided re-manufacture, repairs and servicing to a wide range of military land-based systems ranging from electronics to fight vehicles. He said Lee used a system of "chalk marking" for drivers to move items from one part of the base to another. "If so, it was not an official system and may simply indicate his selection of goods to be stolen," said Mr Heywood.

"Responsibility for the disposal of all scrap or unserviceable equipment was vested entirely in Lee as logistics manager with the sole exception of the disposal of hazardous or toxic waste. Redundant or surplus stock is disposed of to contractors who were appointed following a tendering process. At no time was Lee authorised to dispose of any scrap equipment locally.

"We anticipate that Lee will say in his defence that the base was awash with scrap and he was authorised to dispose of it locally and the items he did dispose of were of no value."

Mr Heywood said an area at the Donnington base was known as "Harry's Pile" which came about when Lee started to have certain items of equipment moved from the scrap area to the new location."

A police investigation began in October 2001 when a supply manager "became puzzled" at a load of scrap being removed from the base in a lorry.

" Pengelly's house was searched and diaries were found which contained numerous references which the prosecution suggest were of corrupt payments made to Lee as rewards or commissions for the supply of pistons or payments for scrap," added Mr Heywood.

The trial continues.