|Christopher Tappin, 63, a retired British businessman, said he ‘was the victim of the unlawful conduct of US agents.’|
Briton to fight US extradition in Iran case
LONDON — American authorities accuse him of plotting to sell missile components to Iran in a deal exposed in an undercover sting — but British retiree Christopher Tappin insisted yesterday that he is the innocent victim of entrapment by US customs agents.
Tappin, 63, faces three charges in the United States over an alleged plan to sell specialized batteries for Hawk missiles to Tehran.
He says he will fight extradition, in the latest case to expose tensions in arrangements for transferring criminal suspects between Britain and the United States.
Two men alleged to have been Tappin’s accomplices already have been jailed in the United States over the plot, which customs officials say took place between December 2005 and January 2007.
Authorities allege Tappin used the alias Ian Pullen in contacts with undercover US agents, who used a fake company to strike a $25,000 deal with him to buy five specialized batteries.
In an indictment filed at the Texas Western District Court in February 2007, Tappin spoke with the customs agent at least five times in 2006 to arrange the deal. He then wired a $25,000 payment into the fake company’s bank account to pay for the batteries and sent a $5,000 check to one of the undercover agents through an intermediary.
The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency alleges Tappin was then involved in arrangements to smuggle the equipment to Iran through Britain or the Netherlands.
Tappin told reporters at a news conference in London he had been duped by the customs agents, had no contacts with Iran, and had stood to make only $500 from his role in the deal.
“I deny these allegations,’’ Tappin said. “I was the victim of the unlawful conduct of US agents who pretended to belong to a false company, known as Mercury Global Enterprises. It exists solely to ensnare unsuspecting importers.’’