Christopher Tappin waits to hear bail decision


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The Independent US

A retired British businessman extradited to the United States over arms dealing charges will remain in jail this weekend.

Christopher Tappin, who lost his two-year battle against being sent to America last week, will have to wait until Monday to learn whether he will be released on bail, his US lawyer Dan Cogdell said.

Tappin, 65, who is spending 23 hours a day locked in his cell, will be held at Otero County detention centre in New Mexico until the federal court in El Paso, Texas, rules on the bail hearing.

Daryl Fields, a spokesman for the US Attorney's Office in the western district of Texas, said US Magistrate Judge Robert Castaneda adjourned the hearing until 1.30pm local time on Monday (8.30pm BST) when he will deliver his ruling.

Earlier, Kent Schaffer, representing Tappin, said his client would agree with any measures the court chose to impose for his release while he awaited trial.

Tappin, of Orpington, Kent, 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 faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted.

He was escorted into the courtroom wearing an orange-red prison jumpsuit, with his feet and one hand shackled. US marshals allowed the other hand to remain free so Tappin could use a cane he needs to walk.

Assistant US attorney Gregg McDonald opposed the bail request and asked the court to keep Tappin in custody for the remainder of the proceedings.

Mr McDonald said: "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."

He argued that Tappin had no ties to the US and failed to tell court officials about his frequent travels to Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and South Africa.

The prosecutor also said 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, 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 also said there was evidence indicating a prior sale of technology for about two million dollars (£1.2m) to the United Arab Emirates and then to Iran.

Mr Schaffer said if released Tappin 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. He said Tappin's family was ready to post bail of 50,000 dollars (£31,600).

"I don't want to use the word preposterous, but the fact that he surrendered himself in Heathrow airport, went to the Otero (New Mexico) 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 was delivered to El Paso by US marshals last week after fighting extradition from the UK for two years.

During the investigation, which began in 2005, Ice agents arrested another UK citizen, Robert Gibson, who agreed to co-operate with US authorities.

Gibson served two years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to export defence articles.

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

Mr Marcell said that when they told Tappin that the specialised missile batteries needed to be exported with a US government licence, he gave them with a false invoice stating that the batteries were for other purposes.

The invoice given by Tappin had a signature that he claimed was Gibson's, who at the time was in federal custody.

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

A family spokeswoman confirmed Tappin's wife Elaine, 62, would not be making any comment until the result of the bail hearing was known on Monday.

Tappin's MP, Tory Jo Johnson, and Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who has known the businessman for nearly 40 years, urged Home Secretary Theresa May to intervene to ensure the US authorities did not object to bail.

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

Tappin's case fuelled the row over the fairness of the extradition treaty between the UK and the US.