Extradited Christopher Tappin to plead guilty to arms dealing charges

 

A retired British businessman extradited to the United States will admit his guilt over arms dealing charges today.

Christopher Tappin will plead guilty when he appears in court in El Paso, Texas, this afternoon in an agreement with US prosecutors, his family confirmed.

But even if the deal is agreed by senior US district judge David Briones, it is still likely to be several weeks before he is sentenced for conspiring to sell batteries for Iranian missiles.

His wife Elaine, 62, said "however upsetting" a plea deal was, it marked the beginning of his "swift and safe return" to the UK.

Mrs Tappin, who has chronic Churg-Strauss syndrome, said: "From the moment Chris was put on a plane all we ever wanted was his swift and safe return.

"However upsetting, this is the beginning of that process."

Tappin, 65, of Orpington, Kent, is on bail after being extradited to the US in February.

The former president of the Kent Golf Union has 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.

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 faced up to 35 years in jail, but this is likely to be significantly reduced under the terms of his plea deal, which have not yet been released.

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.

But other extradited Britons - including so-called NatWest Three banker David Bermingham, who was jailed for 37 months over an Enron-related fraud in a plea deal four years ago - have claimed the system empowers prosecutors as "judge, jury and executioner".

The system, and the pressure it places on defendants, leaves extradited Britons with little choice but to accept a deal if they want to return to their families at home, Bermingham, of Goring, south Oxfordshire, said.

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.

"The odds are so heavily stacked against a defendant who chooses to plead not guilty and then is subsequently found guilty that the vast majority of people facing trial in the US opt to take a plea agreement," she said.

"I hope that following this decision to enter into a plea agreement Mr Tappin will be able to return to the UK as soon as possible to rejoin his family."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory