Christopher Tappin Pleads Guilty To Aiding Iran Arms Deal, Could Return To Jail In UK

Extradited Brit Pleads Guilty To Aiding Attempt To Sell Arms To Iran

Extradited Briton Christopher Tappin's guilty plea over arms dealing charges is "the beginning of the end" of the family's ordeal, his wife has said today.

Elaine Tappin said her "overwhelming feeling remains one of anxiety and sadness" but her husband's plea deal with US prosecutors marked "the beginning of the end".

Tappin changed his plea to one count of aiding and abetting the illegal export of defence articles at a hearing in El Paso, Texas, on Thursday and faces a 33-month sentence when he appears in court again on January 9.

Retired businessman Christopher Tappin, with his wife Elaine

Mrs Tappin, of Orpington, Kent, 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.

"It has been a very difficult time for us all and one that would have been infinitely harder had we not received such warm support from friends and strangers alike.

"For that I shall always remain extremely grateful."

Tappin, who is 66 today, had 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.

But he changed his plea in an agreement with US prosecutors.

He remains on bail after being extradited to the US in February.

Tappin's lawyer, Dan Cogdell, said he expected him to serve several months in a US prison while authorities decide whether he can return to complete his sentence in the UK.

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, the former president of the Kent Golf Union, pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting the illegal export of defence articles, a spokesman for the US attorney's office in the western district of Texas said.

Appearing before US District Judge David Briones, he 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.

According to the plea agreement, which is pending approval by Judge Briones, Tappin faces a fine of £7,044 along with the prison sentence.

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.

Tappin's UK lawyer, Karen Todner, who also represented computer hacker Gary McKinnon in his successful 10-year fight against extradition, said 98% of people who enter the US justice system agree a plea deal.


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