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Counter Proliferation Investigation Unit
03/06/2012

British businessman ordered to remain in federal custody pending trial

Charge stems from scheme to illegally export to Iran parts for 'Hawk' surface-to-air missile systems

EL PASO, Texas – A federal magistrate on Monday ordered that a British businessman, facing charges in connection with a scheme to illegally export parts used in Hawk surface-to-air missile systems to Iran, remain detained pending trial.

Christopher Tappin, 65, of Orpington, Kent, is the subject of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). He was extradited from the United Kingdom, and arrived in El Paso Feb. 24 in the custody of deputy U.S. marshals.

Jury selection and trial, before U.S. District Judge David Briones in El Paso, has yet to be scheduled.

On March 5, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Castañeda ruled that Tappin posed a flight risk. He is charged by a federal grand jury indictment with one count each of conspiracy to illegally export defense articles, aiding and abetting the illegal export of defense articles, and conspiracy to conduct illegal financial transactions.

If convicted, Tappin faces the following maximum federal prison sentences:

  • up to five years on the charge of conspiracy to illegally export defense articles,
  • up to 10 years on the charge of aiding and abetting the illegal export of defense articles,
  • and up to 20 years on the charge of conspiracy to conduct illegal financial transactions.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg McDonald, Western District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.

An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.