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Christopher Tappin, Extradited British Businessman, Waits For Bail Decision

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Christopher Tappin, who lost his two-year battle against being sent to America last week, could face up to 35 years in jail if convicted.
Christopher Tappin, who lost his two-year battle against being sent to America last week, could face up to 35 years in jail if convicted.

A retired British businessman extradited to the United States will learn on Monday evening whether he will be kept behind bars while he awaits trial over arms dealing charges.

Christopher Tappin, 65, has spent 23 hours a day locked in his cell at the Otero County detention centre in New Mexico since being extradited to America two weeks ago.

US prosecutors believe Tappin may be a "danger to the community" if released, but his lawyers told the court that, having surrendered to US marshals at Heathrow, he was not going to go "running back to England".

Judge Robert Castaneda is expected to deliver his ruling on bail at the federal court in El Paso, Texas, at 1.30pm local time (8.30pm GMT).

Tappin, of Orpington, Kent, lost his two-year battle against extradition to America two weeks ago and denies attempting to sell batteries for surface-to-air missiles which were to be shipped from the US to Tehran via the Netherlands.

The president of the Kent Golf Union, who faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted, was escorted into the courtroom on Friday wearing an orange-red prison jumpsuit, with his feet and one hand shackled.

US marshals allowed the other hand to remain free so he could use a cane he needs to walk.

Assistant US attorney Greg McDonald asked the judge to keep Tappin in jail for the remainder of the proceedings.

"The risk is not that he'll punch somebody in the face, but through the use of a computer and the knowledge he has, he might pose a danger to the community," Mr McDonald said.

Tappin has no ties to the US and failed to disclose to court officials his frequent travels to Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and South Africa, he added.

Mr McDonald also said that Tappin continued to deal US technology to Iran even after he was indicted in 2007.

Ron Marcell, a special agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said that in July 2007 and April 2008 agents seized about 100,000 dollars (£63,291) allegedly sent by Tappin and his freight company, Brooklands.

He alleged the funds were for the purchase of a "clean room" of the sort used in electronics manufacturing and Yig Filters, electronic devices used in telecommunications that would be sent to Iran.

Tappin never contested the seizing of the money, Mr Marcell said.

He added there was evidence indicating a prior sale of technology for about two million dollars (£1.2 million) to the United Arab Emirates and then to Iran.

But Kent Schaffer, representing Tappin, said if released, his client would wear a GPS tracking device, comply with any curfews, live in the house of one of his lawyers in Houston, Texas, and stay within a five-mile radius of it at all times.

Tappin's family was ready to post bail of 50,000 dollars (£31,600), he added.

"I don't want to use the word preposterous, but the fact that he surrendered himself in Heathrow airport, went to the Otero County jail facility, was brought in handcuffs to go through a detention hearing to go running back to England... It's not going to happen," Mr Schaffer said.

Tappin's wife Elaine, 62, broke down in tears last Tuesday as she told MPs of her despair that nobody was prepared to listen to her husband's defence before "carting him off".

His case fuelled the row over the fairness of the extradition treaty between the UK and the US.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC said Tappin's extradition highlighted problems with the treaty which were not "readily curable", warning that many Britons were left uneasy when faced with the seemingly harsh and disproportionate sentences in the American justice system.

Other critics of the 2003 treaty, including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, have described it as "one-sided", but an independent review by retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Scott Baker last year found it was both balanced and fair.

Tappin's extradition follows an investigation which started in 2005 when US agents asked technology providers about buyers who might have raised red flags.

Those customers were then approached by undercover companies set up by government agencies.

Briton Robert Gibson, an associate of Tappin who agreed to co-operate, was jailed for 24 months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to export defence articles.

Gibson provided ICE agents with about 16,000 computer files and emails indicating that he and Tappin had long-standing commercial ties with Iranian customers.

American Robert Caldwell was also found guilty of aiding and abetting the illegal transport of defence articles and served 20 months in prison.

Tappin arriving at Heathrow

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