London

Golfer accused of arms-to-Iran sale 'entrapment victim'

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Media captionChristopher Tappin: "I was the victim of the unlawful conduct of US agents"

A golf club president from south London, who is battling extradition to the US, said he was "the victim of unlawful conduct by US agents".

Christopher Tappin, 63, from Orpington and president of Kent County Golf Union, denies selling arms to Iran.

Mr Tappin says he was unwittingly caught up in a US customs sting.

He will appear at an extradition hearing in two weeks' time and faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted in a US court.

At a press conference in central London, retired businessman Mr Tappin said: "I deny these allegations."

'Unsuspecting importers'

"I was the victim of the unlawful conduct of US agents who pretended to belong to a false company, known as Mercury Global Enterprises," he added.

"It exists solely to ensnare unsuspecting importers."

Mr Tappin said that, even though he believed he had done nothing wrong, he would "be happy" to face trial in the UK but not the USA.

"I live here with my family and the alleged crimes were committed here.

"My wife suffers from Churg-Strauss syndrome, which is a very serious condition and she needs my constant support and attention," he added.

It is alleged Mr Tappin sold batteries for surface-to-air missiles to Tehran, which were sourced in the US without a licence.

But the 63-year-old said he had been misled by US agents.

"They misled me by sending me paperwork which clearly stated 'no license required'."

'Misleading' conduct

Mr Tappin also said he had been informed that his business associate Robert Gibson had been injured in a car accident when he had, in fact, been arrested.

Mr Tappin is being represented by Karen Todner, the solicitor who acts for computer hacker Gary McKinnon in his fight against extradition to the US.

She was unable to attend the press conference, but her spokesman Ben Seifert said Mr Tappin believed the batteries were for use in the automotive industry.

"He never knew they were anything to do with Iran or anything to do with missiles.

He said the agents' conduct was "misleading and dishonest".

"Ultimately the US agents resorted to proactive deceit and told lies in order to attempt to ensnare and entrap a respected British businessman," he said.

Mr Tappin's extradition hearing is due to take place at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court on 2 September.

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