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Christopher Tappin, British Businessman, Jailed In USA For 33 Months For Arms Dealing

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The wife of retired British businessman Christopher Tappin has vowed to campaign for a change in extradition laws after he was jailed in the US for arms dealing.

Speaking after her 66-year-old husband was sentenced to 33 months in prison, Elaine Tappin said the cost of extradition was "unnecessary, disproportionate, or both".

The 66-year-old pleaded guilty last year to one count of aiding and abetting the illegal export of defence articles under a so-called plea bargain.

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Christopher Tappin may serve his sentence in the UK

US District Judge David Briones fined Tappin $11,357.14 (£7,095), in addition to the prison sentence, at a court hearing in El Paso, Texas.

Judge Briones recommended that the former president of the Kent Golf Union should be allowed to serve his sentence in the UK but the decision ultimately rests with the US Bureau of Prisons, a spokeswoman for the court added.

Tappin, from Orpington, Kent, will commence his sentence at the Allenwood prison in Pennsylvania and must turn himself in to start the term by 8 March.

Elaine 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.

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"I'm hoping against hope that he'll have the mental fortitude to cope with whatever lies before him in the months and years to come.

"Having seen firsthand how the Extradition Act works in practice, I'm dismayed by the damage inflicted on defendants and those close to them.

"The cost is too often either unnecessary, disproportionate, or both. We cannot change what has happened to Chris, nor to those who have gone before him, but we can take steps to stop unwarranted extradition being imposed on others."

The couple, who have been married for 38 years and have a son and daughter, are touched by the "tremendous support" received from friends and strangers, Mrs Tappin said.

She added: "I pray that the US and UK authorities between them will expedite Chris' repatriation to Britain so we, and his friends, are able to visit him in prison."

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Elaine Tappin with her husband on the day he was extradited to the USA

Tappin previously denied attempting to sell batteries for surface-to-air missiles which were to be shipped from the US to Tehran via the Netherlands.

He was originally thought to have faced up to 35 years in jail if found guilty.

The case followed 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.

Tappin admitted that between December 2005 and January 2007, he knowingly aided and abetted others in an illegal attempt to export zinc/silver oxide reserve batteries, a special component of the Hawk Air Defence Missile, to Iran.

By pleading guilty, he waived his right to appeal against his conviction or challenge the sentence handed down in this case.

Two other men have already been sentenced.

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 customs 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.

Plea bargaining is common in the US, with defendants often able to secure a more lenient sentence if they admit an offence and co-operate with prosecutors, rather than contest the charges in a trial.