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Kaim Todner Media Statement re Extradition of Christopher Tappin
Christopher Tappin will say as follows:
"I deny these allegations. 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. When negotiating with me, and when I raised my concerns about the licence agreement they assured me that “this would not be a problem,” however the same agents have been relied upon to accuse me of being responsible for not obtaining the licences. They misled me by sending me paperwork which clearly stated “no license required”. Furthermore their tactics resorted to deceit by informing me that my business associate, Robert Gibson, had been injured in a car crash, when in fact he had been arrested. Gibson pleaded guilty and cooperated with the American authorities in order to reduce his sentence.
When I asked an American acquaintance, Robert Caldwell, to travel to Houston to inspect the goods, he was immediately arrested for aiding and abetting the illegal export of defence articles. I was sufficiently concerned as to the conduct of MGE/ the US agents that I contacted a solicitor, who advised me to get in touch with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office immediately. I was referred to the New York UK Trade & Industry Team, a branch of the Diplomatic Service.
They said to me: “Be aware that this is a very dangerous company to deal with and recommend that you terminate any contract [sic] you may have with them. Your company is not the only one we have received complaints from regarding Mercury Global Enterprises and although this form of entrapment is legal in the U.S. other countries including the U.K. take a different view on this type of proactive deception.” I was also encouraged to send the payment into the private bank accounts of the undercover US agents.
Even though I am certain I did nothing wrong I would be happy to face trial in United Kingdom and 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."
Ben Seifert, spokesman for Karen Todner, Mr Tappin’s solicitor will say as follows:
“We contend that in the circumstance of this case if Mr Tappin should face trial at all the forum conveniens is the United Kingdom and not the USA. The defendant and his family are here; the alleged crimes were committed here in the UK; they are indictable here and any evidence that may be found in the USA can easily be sent here by use of the mutual legal assistance procedures.
Mr Tappin is a British citizen who has at all times lived in Britain, where he was educated and conducted his business. He is now 63 years of age and has retired. He is of unblemished good character and has won industry awards for his achievements as a businessman. He is President of Kent County Golf Union. He has strong family support in the United Kingdom.
This is a case in which the Customs agents caused the offence to be committed rather than merely providing an opportunity for the Defendant to commit it. There would have been no offence at all had the ICE agents not offered to provide batteries to an associate of Mr Tappin and had they not participated in the wholly artificial exercise of offering batteries to his associate for purchase. Their conduct thereafter in progressing a phantom export requires careful scrutiny.
The conduct of the US agents was therefore 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. The evidence of these same agents is relied upon to accuse Mr Tappin of being responsible for not obtaining the licenses in issue. Mr Tappin contends that the advantages of a UK trial would outweigh the desire of prosecutors in the US to extradite when their interests can be safeguarded within the UK justice system.
Given that the entirety of Mr Tappin’s alleged conduct took place within the UK and the US agents had to engage in deceitful conduct in order to attempt to entrap him he is entitled to be tried within his home jurisdiction where the alleged conduct occurred.
On 18 January 2007 the Attorney General issued guidelines on joint jurisdictional cases involving the US and the UK. The Guidance was published pursuant to assurances given to Parliament in November 2006 that it would provide adequate safeguards in the absence of statutory and judicial supervision on the question of determining the appropriate forum for trial in criminal cases which could be tried in either the United Kingdom or the United States of America.
The Extradition Act 20003 bars extradition if it appears that a significant part of the conduct alleged to constitute the extradition offence is conducted in the UK, and in view of that and all the other circumstances, it would not be in the interests of justice for the person to be tried for this offence in the requesting territory.
The then Solicitor-General, Mr Mike O’Brien, when informing the House of Commons on 25th January 2007 that Guidance on forum of trial had been agreed with the USA and was being published with the Attorney General’s Domestic Guidance observed that the UK Prosecutor would have the power to decide that a case should be tried in the UK when this is possible and in accordance with the law and public interest.
Mr Tappin completely rejects the allegations made by those prosecuting in the US. His disagreement is not merely with the facts alleged, but with the inferences being drawn from those facts. His capacity to answer those allegations is and will be drawn virtually in its entirety from evidence present and available to him in the United Kingdom, and not present nor necessarily available to him in the USA. His response to the allegations would, were justice to be appropriately done, be comprehensible to a jury of his peers in this country. His defence case could not and would not be transferable 3000 miles to a jury trial in which, despite the seeming commonality of language, nevertheless relevant culture, education, assumptions, and context would be entirely alien.
Furthermore, in Mr Tappin’s case, particular dangers exist in light of the behaviour customarily adopted by federal prosecutors in the United States. This includes sustained pressure to enter into a plea agreement, sustained pressure in a significant number of cases to become a cooperating witness, the use of threats including the possibility of a very long prison sentence upon conviction; the threat (and the reality) of the remand and post conviction sentence period being served under severe conditions far from his wife and family and friends; the threat of refusal of fair consideration of the transfer, if convicted and sentenced, to the United Kingdom for service of the sentence in the defendant’s country of origin. In the circumstances of Mr Tappin, the combination of all of these factors combines to produce compelling reasons to predict that he will suffer exceptional disadvantage if transferred to stand trial in the United States, where the case against him could easily and straightforwardly be prosecuted in the United Kingdom.
Furthermore the maximum prison sentences of 35 years available to the US prosecutors upon conviction in the United States provides a compelling reason for objective and detached consideration of what constitutes the appropriate forum for trial in view of Mr Tappin’s age and responsibilities to his family and due to the ill-health of his wife.
The Court hearing
The full extradition hearing will take place at the City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Horseferry Road on 2 September 2010 at 10am. At the hearing a District Judge will decide whether or not to send the case to the Home Secretary, who makes the final decision regarding extradition. In the event that she agrees to the extradition, there is the opportunity to appeal to the High Court. It might be possible to appeal to the Supreme Court if there is a certifiable point of law of public importance. The last potential legal action would be an application to the European Court of Human Rights, who have the power to apply interim measures whilst they consider the legality of such an extradition.”
17 August 2010