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Briton gets 33 months for bid to sell arms parts to Iran

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 5:34 p.m.
ADDS SENTENCING DETAILS - British businessman Christopher Tappin arrives at Federal court in El Paso, Texas, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. U.S. District Judge David Briones sentenced Tappin Wednesday to two years and nine months in prison, said he would recommend that the Department of Justice approve any request by Tappin to be transferred to the United Kingdom. Tappin pleaded guilty in November to trying to buy missile parts and resell them to Iran. (AP Photo/Juan Carlos Llorca)

EL PASO — A federal judge sentenced a British businessman to nearly three years in prison on Wednesday for trying to buy surface-to-air missile parts from undercover American agents to resell to Iran.

Christopher Tappin, 66, pleaded guilty in November to aiding and abetting to export military materials in a deal that opened the door for him to serve part of his sentence in Britain near his ailing wife. U.S. District Judge David Briones said he would recommend that the Department of Justice approve any request by Tappin to be transferred to the United Kingdom.

Tappin read a brief statement during the sentencing hearing in which he apologized for the crime.

“I regret my actions and the impact they had on my family,” he said. “I am looking forward to putting this incident behind me and returning to my previous unblemished life and my wife.”

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed not to oppose any request by Tappin to serve part of his 33-month sentence in Britain. Along with approval from the Department of Justice, Tappin needs approval from the British government to serve time in one of its prisons.

In 2006, Tappin associate Robert Gibson contacted a company set up by undercover U.S. agents to buy batteries for surface-to-air missiles. Tappin provided undercover agents with false documents to deceive authorities and circumvent the requirement for the batteries to be licensed by the U.S. government before being exported.

“We hope this sends a message to people that are selling defense materials that we monitor sales and shipments, and that we are watching,” federal prosecutor Greg McDonald said.

Tappin must pay an $11,357 fine, the amount he would have profited from the sale.

Gibson and a third man implicated in the plot also were sentenced to prison terms.

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