UK & World News

  • 9 January 2013, 21:17

Tappin: Extradited Brit Jailed For Arms Dealing

British businessman Christopher Tappin has been jailed for 33 months for trying to buy missile parts and resell them to Iran.

US District Judge David Briones, who sentenced Tappin, said he would recommend that the Department of Justice approve any request by Tappin to be transferred to the UK. He was also fined $11,357 (7,089).

The 65-year-old, from Orpington, Kent, tried to buy missile batteries from undercover US agents with the intention of exporting them to Iran without obtaining a licence.

"These batteries are used to make Hark missiles operational and Tappin admitted that he submitted false shipping documentation to circumvent US export control regulations," said US attorney Robert Pitman.

Outside court, Tappin, said: "I have accepted the plea agreement offered by the US government and confirmed by the court today.

"As part of the agreement both the US government and the British government have offered to support my repatriation to Britain at the earliest opportunity. I look forward to returning home to be near my friends and family and especially my sick wife."

The former president of the Kent Golf Union had fought extradition for two years until being denied a petition to take the case to Britain's Supreme Court.

Tappin then reached a plea agreement that opened the door for him to serve part of his sentence in Britain.

Tappin's wife, Elaine, said she hoped the businessman would have "the mental fortitude to cope with whatever lies before him in the months and years to come".

On November 1, 2012, Tappin pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting the illegal export of defence articles.

He admitted that from December 2005 to January 2007, he knowingly aided and abetted others, including his Cyprus-based business associate Robert Frederick Gibson and Robert Caldwell in an illegal attempt to export zinc/silver oxide reserve batteries to Iran.

These particular batteries, a special component of the Hawk Air Defence Missile, are designated as a defence article on the US Munitions List and require a licence or written authorisation from the US State Department for export from the US.

Tappin's extradition to the US in February 2012 touched a nerve in Britain, where many believe extradition arrangements with the US are unfairly weighted against British citizens.

Mrs Tappin, who suffers from chronic illness Churg-Strauss Syndrome, was unable to attend the court in Texas.

Following the sentencing, she said: "Now I can begin to see light at the end of this long dark tunnel - but remain frustrated that Chris' extradition was granted in the first place.

"Being returned to a US prison will be dreadful for him. He is learning to live with the regrets - it is a chastening experience after a 45-year unblemished business career."

Gibson, a British national, pleaded guilty in April 2007 and was sentenced to 24 months in prison. Caldwell, from Oregon, was found guilty in July of that year and received a 20-month sentence.

After he was brought to Texas, Tappin was held at the Otero County Jail for about two months, where he initially was put in solitary confinement at his request.

Tappin was later released on bail and has since lived near his lawyer's house in a gated community in Houston.

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