UK & World News
Tappin May Serve 'Arms Deal' Sentence In UK
A retired British businessman accused of selling surface-to-air missile parts to Iran haspleaded guilty in a US court.
Christopher Tappin had denied the charges but changed his plea at a hearing in El Paso, Texas, this afternoon in an agreement with US prosecutors.
His guilty plea to one count of the indictment calls for a 33-month sentence, which prosecutors have said they will not oppose him serving back in the UK.
US District Judge David Briones will sentence Tappin - who was extradited to the US in February - on January 9.
The 66-year-old from Orpington, Kent, has been living in an affluent area of Houston since his release on a $1m bond in April.
The former president of the Kent Golf Union has previously denied attempting to sell batteries for surface-to-air missiles which were to be shipped from the US to Tehran via the Netherlands, saying he was the victim of an FBI sting.
His wife Elaine, 62, said the plea deal marks the "beginning of the end" of the family's ordeal.
She said: "My overwhelming feeling remains one of anxiety and sadness, however at last I dare hope that Chris will be back on home soil next year.
"I feel we are getting to the beginning of the end."
The federal indictment filed in 2007 said a cooperating defendant provided computer files showing Tappin intended to send surface-to-air-missile batteries to a Tehran-based company and he had illegally sold US technology to Iran in the past.
The US government alleged Tappin provided undercover agents with false documents to deceive authorities and circumvent the requirement for the batteries to be licensed by the government before being exported.
Tappin's extradition touched a nerve in the UK, where campaigners have maintained that the fast-track extradition arrangements between the UK and the US are unfairly weighted in Washington's favour.
But Tappin's lawyer Dan Cogdell said he didn't see much room for argument.
"He pled guilty because he was guilty," Cogdell said.
Two men have already been sentenced to prison for charges stemming from the indictment.
Briton Robert Gibson pleaded guilty in April 2007 and was sentenced to 24 months in prison while Robert Caldwell, from Oregon, was found guilty in July of that year and received a 20 month sentence.