Briton sentenced to 33 months for selling missile batteries to Iran
El Paso, TX, United States (4E) – A court in El Paso, Texas has sentenced to 33 months in prison a British businessman, who pleaded guilty to illegally buying batteries intended for missiles to be exported to Iran in 2006 and 2007.
U.S. District Judge David Briones sentenced Christopher Tappin, 65, of Kent on Wednesday. Tappin will serve part of the sentence at Allenwood prison in Pennsylvania starting March 8. He will later be deported and continue serving the sentence in the U.K.
Aside from the prison term, Tappin will be subject to three years supervised probation and pay a fine of $11,357.14.
Tappin originally faced 35 years in prison on charges of aiding and abetting the illegal export of defense articles. But he accepted a plea bargain in November to get a reduced sentence.
Tappin’s two conspirators, British Robert Frederick Gibson and American Robert Thomas Caldwell, had pleaded guilty in 2007 and sentenced to 24 and 20 months in prison, respectively.
From December 2005 and January 2007, Tappin tried to buy from an undercover U.S. company 35 zinc/silver oxide batteries to power MIM-23 Hawk surface-to-air missiles for a customer in Tehran without proper license and approval by the U.S. government. The batteries were to be exported to Iran via the Netherlands.
Tappin told undercover U.S. agents at the Mercury Global Enterprises (MGE) that the batteries were to be used for electroplating by a Dutch chemical company. The agents gave him an opportunity to withdraw from the transaction in October 2006, but he persisted.
Tappin was indicted in the U.S. in 2007, but he learned about it only in 2010, when he was arrested by police in the U.K. He fought extradition to the U.S. and claimed he did not know the batteries were for missiles. But he lost the extradition case and was extradited to the U.S. in February last year.
Tappin was initially detained at the Otero County Prison in Chaparral, New Mexico before being released on a $1 million bond in April. He was restricted to living in Houston with his attorney and had to wear a tracking device.