Chris Tappin: British man extradited to U.S. over absurd FBI sting
CHRIS Tappin is going to the US, where he will reside in jail. Chris Tappin is profiled in the Times. He lives in Orpington. He’s 65. He is the leading light in the Kent Golf Union, plays bridge and “dotes on his grandson”.
He’s middle class. This, of course , means nothing. It’s just a way to telling readers that what follows could happen to them.
At 9.30am next Friday, Tppin will be at Heathrow’s police station. British police will pass him to US marshals. They will transport him to Texas, where he will be arrested.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights organisation Liberty, makes her point:
‘This new case must remind the Government to honour the promises of both coalition parties in opposition and review our rotten extradition act. ‘Until the act is amended to put fairness back into the system, no one who indulges in foreign holidays, business dealings or mere use of the internet is safe from being shipped off like freight on the basis of allegations from around the world.”
Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP, says:
“To parcel people off to the US and elsewhere without affording them the ability in a UK court to contest what is said against them is not only unfair but a breach of their human rights.”
Says Mr Tappin:
“I can’t believe it’s happening.”
His wife Elaine adds:
“I’m so shocked, and very frightened for him. You watch people on television going to prison, but you don’t think it’s going to happen to you. It’s horrible, horrible.”
So. What happened? Well Mr Tappin used to own a freight forwarding company, Brooklands International.
In 2006, Robert Gibson, a British client, asked him to ship five industrial batteries at a cost of $25,000 from Texas to an automotive company in Amsterdam.bUnknown to Gibson, the vendor, Mercury Global Enterprises (MGE) of El Paso, was a front company set up by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to entrap businessmen engaged in the illegal export of controlled technologies.
Gibson was arrested that August when he went to inspect the batteries. He was accused of attempting to send them to Iran for use in Hawk air defence missiles. Gibson named Mr Tappin as a co-conspirator, said that they were to share the profits from the battery sales, and provided allegedly incriminating evidence. He was handed a two-year sentence.
Mr Tappin says this is not so. He was just moving the things to Holland. The rest is bunkum.
In El Paso, Texas. Mr Tappin was indicted on three counts by a grand jury. He was not there to defend himself. No-one was. Indeed, it was only when he was arrested on May 2010because US authorities were seeking his extradition that he knew of the kangaroo court.
In January his attempt to block the extradition through the UK courts ended when High Court judges Lord Justice Hooper and Mr Justice Cranston refused to allow him to take his case to the Supreme Court.
The US-UK extradition treaty was intended for the extradition of terrorists. But it’s been abused.
It does not require the US to make a prima facie case against its target in a British court — a grand jury indictment suffices. A judge cannot rule that the defendant should stand trial in Britain, even if that is where the alleged offence was committed. Provided that certain statutory criteria are fulfilled, courts have little choice but to grant the extradition request.
Thanks to Tony Blair, this is law.
No need for evidence. No need for debate. Just pack them up and send them over.
Mr Tappin is unlikely to get his day in court in Texas either. He will likely be deemed a “flight risk” and denied bail. He will then be offered a choice: plead guilty to a minor offence with a short sentence, or demand a trial on all three charges, knowing that he would face up to 35 years — the rest of his life — in a US prison, with no possibility of repatriation if he loses.
A trial might not start for years. It would bankrupt him as there is no legal aid or reimbursement of costs in the US — he has already spent $65,000 (£41,000) on his American lawyer. He said that six British and Dutch defence witnesses would refuse to testify lest they, too, were arrested.
Is this freedom? Is this what the war on terror – the war to preserve our freedom – has done to us?
How did freedom become about one man’s survival?
His solicitor Karen Todner also represents Asperger’s sufferer Gary McKinnon who has been under threat of extradition for 10 years after admitting hacking into top US military computers. He claims he was only searching for evidence of UFOs.
His mother Janis Sharp told the Bromley Times: “I feel so sorry for Christopher Tappin and his family. He is a man in his 60s. How is he going to survive there? It is just so scary. There are gangs and horrendous abuse goes on. British people should have the same rights as Americans do.”
The Times recaps:
· The treaty was agreed by the Bush and Blair Governments in 2003, when the War on Terror was at its height. The goal was to speed up the extradition of terrorist suspects
· It took effect in January 2004 in the UK, but not until April 2007 in the US because the Senate delayed ratification
· By June 2010 the UK had extradited 62 people to the US, including 28 British citizens or dual nationals. The US had extradited 33 to the UK, three of them US citizens or dual nationals
· The UK must demonstrate a “reasonable basis to believe” that the person to be extradited has committed an offence, but there is no reciprocal requirement
· There is no provision for a “forum test” allowing a judge to rule that a defendant should be tried in his own country because that was where the substance of the offence was committed
· The alleged offence must be a crime in both countries and carry a minimum sentence of 12 months
· The UK may refuse to extradite someone if there is not an assurance that he will not be executed. The extradition must not be politically motivated nor breach a defendant’s human rights
· In 2006 Parliament approved an amendment to the Extradition Act to allow a “forum test”. The Government has yet to ask Parliament to implement it
· Last October, a review of extradition laws by Sir Scott Baker, did not recommend changes to the US-UK treaty. The pressure group Liberty commented: “We don’t just disagree with this review but are completely baffled by it”
· The Home Office is reviewing the Baker report