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British millionaire sentenced in Iran missile scheme

posted 9 Jan 2013, 11:29 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 9 Jan 2013, 11:29 ]

Christopher Tappin has been sentenced to 33 months in jail for attempting to sell missile parts to Iran, following a deal with U.S. prosecutors.

EL PASO, TEXASUNITED STATES (JANUARY 09, 2013) (REUTERS) -  British millionaire Christopher Tappin was sentenced in U.S. federal court inTexas on Wednesday (January 09) on charges of attempting to sell missile parts to Iran.

Tappin, who had previously pleaded not guilty, reversed that stance in federal court in El Paso as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors that calls for a sentence of 33 months in prison and a fine of more than 11,000 dollars.

Tappin addressed reporters after the sentencing.

"I have accepted the pre-agreement offered by the U.S. government and confirmed by the court today. As part of the agreement, both the U.S. government and the British governments have agreed to support my repatriation to Britain at the earliest opportunity. I look forward to returning home and being near my friends and family, especially my sick wife," said Tappin.

Federal prosecutors accused Tappin, a retired shipping magnate, of seeking to ship batteries for Hawk Air Defense Missiles to Iran via the Netherlands. One of the middlemen turned out to be an undercover U.S. customs agent. Tappin was extradited to the U.S. in 2012 after a two-year legal battle.

Assistant U.S. Attorney, Greg McDonald thanked the British government for their participation in the case.

"As you know, Mr. Tappin continued to insist that he was innocent and he really resisted and there was a lot of negative publicity that he generated in the United Kingdom, but as proven by his guilty plea on November 1 and the sentence today, he was in fact guilty. He did plea guilty because he was guilty. The evidence was overwhelming and once we had the opportunity to present it to him and to the court, it was really clear that he had actually engaged in the conduct that was alleged and that's why he was sentenced the way he was today."

Prosecutors have said they will not object to Tappin's sentence being served in England so he can be close to his wife and other family members. He had faced up to 35 years in prison.