Briton accused in Iran missile scheme denied bail

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 05, 2012 7:28 PM
Briton accused in Iran missile scheme denied bail

By David Crowder

EL PASO, Texas (Reuters) - A British businessman extradited to El Paso, Texas, to face charges that he conspired and acted to export illegal missile defense technology to Iran will stay in federal custody pending trial.

Federal magistrate Robert Castaneda on Monday denied bail to Christopher Tappin, 65, of Orpington, Kent, and ordered him held as a possible flight risk.

Tappin surrendered to authorities in England 11 days ago for the purpose of being extradited to face the charges. He has pleaded not guilty.

The 2007 indictment against him by an El Paso grand jury arose from allegations that he tried to buy specialized batteries vital to the operation of modified 1960s-era Hawk anti-aircraft missiles still used by Iran and to arrange for their delivery.

The would-be dealers he is accused of working with turned out to be U.S. undercover agents.

If convicted, Tappin faces up to five years in federal prison on the charge of conspiracy to export defense articles illegally, up to 10 years on the charge of aiding and abetting the illegal export of those parts and up to 20 years for conspiracy to conduct illegal financial transactions, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

A trial date has not been set in the case.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Tim Gaynor)