Briton in missiles-to-Iran case pleads guilty

Nov 1, 2012, 9:16 PM

Associated Press

EL PASO, Texas (AP) – A British man accused of trying to buy missile parts from undercover American agents and resell them to Iran pleaded guilty Thursday in a deal that would carry nearly three years in prison but could allow him to serve much of that time in his native United Kingdom.

Christopher Tappin, 66, faced charges of conspiracy to illegally export defense articles, aiding and abetting the illegal export of defense articles and conspiracy to conduct illegal financial transactions.

He pleaded guilty to the second count of the indictment Thursday in a hearing in El Paso. The deal calls for 33 months in prison, but as part of the agreement, prosecutors have agreed not to oppose his request to be transferred back to his home country. It also carries a fine of $11,357, the amount of money he would have profited from missile parts deal for which he was indicted.

U.S. District Judge David Briones will decide Tappin’s sentence Jan. 9.

The retired British businessman has been living in an upscale Houston neighborhood since his release on a $1 million bond in April.

Tappin’s last half year in the U.S. has been “as pleasant as time away from his family can be,” his lawyer Dan Cogdell said after the hearing. “He plays golf every day, he’s made new friends, but he is away from his family.”

Tappin’s wife, Elaine, said in a statement Thursday that she hoped her husband’s plea deal would mark the “beginning of the end” of her family’s ordeal. She added her “overwhelming feeling remains one of anxiety and sadness … however at last I dare hope that Chris will be back on home soil next year.”

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 that he and the cooperating defendant had illegally sold U.S. technology to Iran in the past.

In 2006, Robert Gibson, an associate of Tappin contacted an undercover company in order to procure batteries for Hawk Surface-To-Air Defense Missiles. The negotiations let to Gibson’s arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

The U.S. 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 in February touched a nerve in Britain, where many contend the fast-track extradition arrangements between the U.K. and the U.S. are unfairly weighted in Washington’s favor.

Cogdell said he didn’t see much room for argument and pleaded guilty “because he was guilty.”

“He regrets his conduct, he regrets the time away from his family, he regrets the notoriety,” the attorney said.

Tappin remained free on bond pending his sentencing. Cogdell said he expected Tappin to spend several months in a U.S. prison after he enters his request to serve the remainder of his sentence in his home country. The request will have to be approved by the Office of Enfocement Operations of the Department of Justice. The British government will also have to accept Tappin in one of its prisons.

Tappin fought extradition to the United States for two years until being denied a petition to take the case to Britain’s Supreme Court. After he was brought to Texas, Tappin was held at the Otero County Jail for about two months, where he initially was put in solitary confinement at his request.

Two men have already been sentenced to prison for charges stemming from the indictment. Gibson, another British national, pleaded guilty in April 2007 and was sentenced to 24 months in prison. Robert Caldwell, from Oregon, was found guilty in July of that year and received a 20-month sentence.

___

Reporter Raphael Statter contributed to this report from London.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

World News

A fisherman watches smoke rise after Russian forces launched a missile attack on a military unit in...
Associated Press

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters hit by drone strike

An explosive device carried by a makeshift drone blew up Sunday at the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea Fleet on the Crimean Peninsula.
18 days ago
Medical syringes are seen with 'Monkeypox' sign displayed on a screen in the backgound in this illu...
Associated Press

Monkeypox declared a global emergency by UN health agency

The expanding monkeypox outbreak in more than 70 countries is an “extraordinary” situation that qualifies as a global emergency.
26 days ago
Chinese paramilitary policemen march in front of the Japanese embassy where the Japanese flag is fl...
Associated Press

Japan’s ex-leader Shinzo Abe assassinated during a speech

TOKYO (AP) — Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated Friday on a street in western Japan by a gunman who opened fire on him from behind as he delivered a campaign speech — an attack that stunned a nation with some of the strictest gun control laws anywhere. The 67-year-old Abe, who was Japan’s […]
1 month ago
Firefighters hose down a burning car after a strike hit a residential area, in Kramatorsk, Donetsk ...
Associated Press

Russia taking ‘operational pause’ in Ukraine, analysts say

Analysts say Russia may be taking an "operational pause" in eastern Ukraine to reassemble forces for a significant offensive.
1 month ago
Prime Minister Boris Johnson enters 10 Downing Street, after reading a statement in London, Thursda...
Associated Press

One scandal too many: British PM Boris Johnson resigns

LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his resignation Thursday after droves of top government officials quit over the latest scandal to engulf him, marking an end to three tumultuous years in which he tried to bluster his way through one ethical lapse after another. Months of defiance ended almost with a shrug as […]
1 month ago
Ukrainian servicemen carry the coffin with the remains of Army Col. Oleksander Makhachek during a f...
Associated Press

As Ukraine loses troops, how long can it keep up the fight?

ZHYTOMYR (AP) — As soon as they had finished burying a veteran colonel killed by Russian shelling, the cemetery workers readied the next hole. Inevitably, given how quickly death is felling Ukrainian troops on the front lines, the empty grave won’t stay that way for long. Col. Oleksandr Makhachek left behind a widow, Elena, and […]
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Briton in missiles-to-Iran case pleads guilty