In the Media

UK businessman loses extradition fight over alleged export of arms to Iran

PUBLISHED January 13, 2012

Judges reject Christopher Tappin's argument that he was tricked by US customs agents in deal to ship missile parts to Iran

A retired British businessman has lost his appeal against extradition to the US to stand trial for allegedly plotting to export missile components to Iran.

Christopher Tappin, from Orpington, in Kent, has insisted throughout that he was the victim of entrapment and that US customs agents enticed him into the deal, one he says made him a profit of only $500 (?325).

But two high court judges ruled on Friday that the entrapment argument was "simply unsustainable" and upheld the extradition decision.

Tappin's supporters liken the 64-year-old's case to that of Gary McKinnon, the alleged computer hacker whose long battle against extradition has highlighted what some ? including many MPs ? believe are fundamental imbalances in the extradition treaty between the UK and US.

Following the decision, Tappin said: "I am thoroughly disappointed in today's judgment. I was relying on the British justice system to protect me from false allegations made by a maverick government agency clearly operating outside the law in the US. Our extradition laws completely fail to prevent such improper extraditions.

"I fear for the impact on my family and close friends. I'll now consider all my options and do what I can to bring an end to this nightmare."

Karen Todner, of Tappin's solicitors, Kaim Todner, said they would seek to take the case to the supreme court.

She said: "Yet again, this one-sided treaty is set to destroy a British citizen's life. We would urge the government to take urgent action to review this treaty and stop these horrendous extraditions."

Tappin admits arranging the shipment of batteries from the US to the Netherlands in 2006, but insists he had no idea about their final destination and was the victim of a sting.

A hearing at Westminster magistrates court in February ordered that Tappin be extradited to Texas. The decision was upheld by the home secretary, Theresa May, two months later. He faces a theoretical maximum jail sentence of 35 years.

In December, the appeal court was told by Tappin's barrister, Edward Fitzgerald QC, that the businessman had been set up by agents from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency who established a fake company, Mercury Global Enterprises, to "ensnare unsuspecting importers such as Mr Tappin".

The agents told Tappin they would obtain the export licences necessary for the batteries, Fitzgerald said.

When Tappin raised concerns about this, one of the agents told him "this would not be a problem". The British businessman was also sent paperwork by the agents saying that no licence was needed.

But in their appeal ruling, Lord Justice Hooper and Mr Justice Cranston said there was insufficient evidence to assert that Tappin had been the victim of a sting.

They said: "Entrapment, as far as I can see, is simply unsustainable on the facts as alleged in the request."

Tappin, who is the president of the Kent County golf union, was also appealing against the extradition on human rights grounds, saying he is the primary carer for his wife, who has a rare and debilitating auto-immune condition, Churg-Strauss syndrome.

This was also refused, as well as an argument that too much time had elapsed since the alleged offence.

A decision is due later on Friday in another extradition case highlighted by opponents of the UK-US treaty.

Westminster magistrates will rule whether Richard O'Dwyer, a Sheffield student, will be extradited to the US for running a website linking to pirated TV and film files.

ICE wants to put him on trial, even though his website had no links to America and there is a strong legal case that simply linking to pirating sites, rather than directly hosting illegal content, is not a criminal offence in Britain. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds