Christopher Tappin Extradition: US Judge Rules Businessman To Remain In Jail

PA/Huffington Post UK  |  By   |  Posted: 05/03/12 21:48  |  Updated: 05/03/12 21:48

Tappin
Christopher Tappin Has Been Denied Bail

A US judge's decision to remand a retired British businessman in custody while he awaits trial on arms dealing charges was "heartbreaking", his wife said tonight.

Elaine Tappin said it was an "outrage" that her 65-year-old husband Christopher has been refused bail after he was extradited to the United States two weeks ago.

Judge Robert Castaneda ruled Tappin must remain in custody after US prosecutors told the federal court in El Paso, Texas, he may be a "danger to the community" if released.

Mrs Tappin, 62, of Orpington, Kent, said: "This is an outrage. God only knows how he'll bear up. It's heartbreaking."

Tappin has spent 23 hours a day locked in his cell at the Otero County detention centre in New Mexico since he was extradited to America.

His wife went on: "I am shocked and deeply disappointed.

"He's a man of his word and is certainly not at risk of fleeing - where would he go?

"He doesn't have his passport or access to money.

"Why has the British Government allowed him to be incarcerated in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day before he's even been tried?

"Tony Blair helped the NatWest Three, why can't David Cameron help Chris?"

Mrs Tappin added: "He's not a danger to anyone - he's a 65-year-old granddad.

"How is he supposed to prepare a proper defence when he's only been allowed to communicate with his lawyers from behind a plastic screen?"

Tappin 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.

But Kent Schaffer, representing Tappin, said if released, his client would have complied with any restrictions imposed by the court and his family was ready to post bail of 50,000 dollars (£31,600).

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.

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