Christopher Tappin, extradition’s forgotten victim who is awaiting US trial, talks of his strange life in Texas

October 22, 2012

The Telegraph on October 21, 2012 released the following:

“By Philip Sherwell

As he strolled off the fairway with his scorecard at the 18th hole, the white-haired man in blue polo shirt and khaki shorts could have been just another relaxed late-afternoon golfer.

But a closer look revealed two pieces of extra “kit” not needed by his playing partners at the country club in the affluent leafy suburbia north of Houston.

Inside the white sock on his left foot was the bulge of an ankle bracelet, while a satellite GPS tracking device blinked in a holster on his belt.

For this was Christopher Tappin, the retired British businessman, former president of the Kent Golf Union and epitome of Home Counties respectability who will go on trial in two weeks [NOV 5] in a Texas courtroom charged with conspiring to supply batteries for Iranian missiles.

His case made headlines as he fought extradition from Britain for five years, under the lopsided treaty passed by the Labour government after the Sept 2001 terror attacks.

This requires evidence of “probable cause” before an American is extradited to Britain, a far higher standard of proof than the “reasonable suspicion” that suffices to send a Briton to trial in the US.

Mr Tappin, 65, who has consistently denied the charges, eventually lost that battle in February and was handed over to the US authorities. The next two months were spent in the hellish conditions of a federal prison in New Mexico, much of the time in solitary confinement.

In April, he was released under strict bail conditions – including wearing the ankle bracelet and GPS tracker to ensure that he does not leave the three Texas counties where he is allowed out before his overnight curfew.

And last week, he spoke for the first time about his life since then in a wide-ranging interview with The Sunday Telegraph.

As he finished the 18 holes in a brisk round of 75, the 65-year-old grandfather looked as calm as the new friends he has made among the businessmen and lawyers at the club.

There was no indication of the inner turmoil that he must feel as he prepares to face an agonising dilemma next month in a federal courtroom in El Paso.

If he pleads not guilty and loses in a country with one of the world’s highest conviction rates, then he could be jailed for up to 35 years in the US – effectively a life sentence away from his sick wife, two children and grandson.

But in a common US legal move, prosecutors are expected to offer him a plea bargain that would give him a much shorter prison term and to probably repatriation to a British jail – provided he admits at least some of the charges.

Mr Tappin, from Orpington, owned a freight shipping company and is accused of trying to buy 50 oxide batteries to power Iranian Hawk missiles after a colleague made contact with a front company set up by the Department of Homeland Security.

He has, however, always insisted he was the unwitting victim of an FBI sting operation and believed the batteries were for commercial use in the Netherlands.

For Mr Tappin, the rounds of his beloved golf that he plays most days are a solace and escape. “Without the golf, I’d go raving mad,” he said. “It keeps me from thinking too much about the case, but it’s tough, it’s very tough.”

His failed battle against extradition was one among a series involving Britons accused in the US of alleged crimes that took place on UK soil.

Last week, he heard some bittersweet news about the most high-profile of all such cases during his daily telephone call from his wife his wife Elaine, who is in Britain and unable to visit him because she suffers Churg-Strauss syndrome, a severe allergic condition that endangers the body’s vital organs.

She told him that Theresa May, the Home Secretary, had ruled that the Briton, Gary McKinnon, accused of hacking into US military computers and causing 300 of them to crash, would not be handed to the US authorities for trial. Her last-minute decision to block his extradition frustrated US officials, who said publicly that they were “disappointed” but were privately furious.

Mrs May took the decision on medical grounds – Mr McKinnon suffers from Asperger’s, a form of autism and his family had argued that he would not survive life inside an US jail, even awaiting trial.

But she also announced plans to introduce a so-called “forum bar” under which judges would decide whether alleged offences should be tried in Britain rather than in the US. If such a law had already been in place, Mr Tappin might have been tried in Britain rather than in America – and as key evidence was collected from a sting operation, the case could have been thrown out before reaching court.

“I’m delighted for Gary and his mother Janis,” he said. “I’ve met them several times and this is great news.

“Gary would never have survived the prison they slung me into, not in his condition. It was the psychotic screaming throughout the night that got me. And the head-banging. And God help him if he’d had to go through solitary like I did, with the lights on 24 hours and the only human contact when they give you a meal three times a day. He couldn’t have coped.

“I desperately hope this presages a change to the system. Something has to be done with that treaty and we’ve been advocating for a ‘forum bar’ for a long time. It’s got to be changed.

“I hope I am the final Brit to be extradited under this treaty as it stands. My case should never be being tried here in the US, I was living in the UK when these alleged offences took place, the crimes were allegedly committed in Britain and the evidence against me comes from the UK, so why am I not being tried in the UK?”

As Mr Tappin awaits that trial, he is trapped in a “gilded cage” existence, and one that is eating up the money he made running his freight business.

After his release on bail, he initially lived at his lawyer’s $2 million home in an upmarket neighbourhood that is built around a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course and protected by private guards and security barriers.

He is now renting his own one-bedroom apartment in a nearby gated community in the wealthy suburban belt north of Houston called Woodlands. “There’s a gym and a swimming pool that I use and I try and keep myself physically fit, though mentally is a whole different challenge,” he said.

“It a very nice area with some lovely people, but you pay a heavy price for life in a paradise,” he noted wrily. “I miss my family and friends and home deeply. Life is boring, to be honest. Each day is deja deja deja déjà vu.”

He is not allowed access to email or the internet under the terms of his bail, but talks each day with his wife and friends and also spends several hours writing and answering letters in longhand.

And he does of course have his golf, playing with his own clubs after they were brought out on a visit by his son Neil, the deputy editor of Golf Monthly magazine. “I’m playing well and happy to get my game back after his two months in jail,” he said. “But these are hardly the circumstances in which I’d want to sharpen my game.”

Pointing to his ankle bracelet and GPS device he added: “And of course, I have to wear these things. It’s not comfortable, but you get used to it. The court charges me a $9 fee a day for the honour of wearing them.”

He has to be home each night from 10pm to 6am under a curfew, and most evenings he cooks for himself. So one big plus, he said, was the discovery of Goodwood’s British Market, a nearby store that specialises in foods from Britain. “They’ve got it all, bangers, fish and chips, Heinz baked beans, HP sauce, Robinson marmalade and the like,” he said.

But he is lonely and desperately pines for home. “It’s nice to hear an English accent,” he said during the interview. “At least the heat of summer has relented. This is the only place where I know where they have to chill the outdoor pools with ice.”

Adding to the strain is the deterioration in his wife’s health. Mrs Tappin visited him in June, but is now no longer allowed to fly on doctor’s orders and is awaiting an operation.

“Elaine is very unwell and this whole situation is really aggravating her condition,” he said. “It used to be me who cared for her. That’s now fallen to my daughter Georgina, but it’s a real strain for her.”

No family will be in El Paso on Nov 5 when appears in court – quite possibly in the manacles and jumpsuit that he had to wear for earlier hearings. “It really wouldn’t serve any purpose to have them there,” he said with resignation. “I just need to get home to them.” As the trial date approaches, the strain is taking its toll. “I used to feel OK, that I have a strong case and didn’t worry too much about it. But the nearer it gets the more I worry.”

He has lost weight and runs his hand through his thinning hair as he spoke, sighing and blowing out air as he talks about his exasperation at his plight.

“It’s utterly devastating to be in this situation at my stage in life,” he said. “I should be spending my retirement looking after my wife, enjoying my new grandchild and playing some golf. Extradition was a very bitter pill to swallow.”

He is not only dealing with the enormity of his legal challenge. He is also undergoing a crash course in American culture, and in particular that of its biggest state, as he finds himself living in a country that he only ever visited as an occasional tourist, the last time 10 years ago.

“Texas is a funny old pace and everything’s just so very different from Kent,” he mused. “They go on about road deaths here but there are guns everywhere and they don’t seem to care. There’s even a Gun Channel on the TV, for heaven’s sake.

“I have made some good friends playing golf, but it is difficult to reconcile how nice some of the people are and how harsh the system is. It’s not just me of course. They’re just as harsh on their own people. They don’t call it ‘Incarceration Nation’ for nothing. There is a huge prison population and the prison industry is a big business.”

Mr Tappin talks regularly to David Bermingham, one of the “NatWest Three”, the British bankers who were also controversially extradited to the US for financial crimes allegedly committed in the UK. The men were jailed in the US after admitting a single offence and sent home to serve out their sentences.

“It’s good to talk to someone who has been in this situation,” he said. And he hopes that a change in the extradition treaty will come in time to help Richard O’Dwyer, a 24-year student in Sheffield, who faces jail in the US for hosting a television download website from his bedsit.

Meanwhile, Mr Tappin is tangling with another immediate headache. His passport has been removed so he cannot board a flight. But his bail conditions restrict his movements to two counties in and around Houston, as his lawyer is based there, and El Paso, where he faces trial – but not the swath of Texas through which he would have to drive between them.
“I’m not quite how I’m even going to get to court,” he said. “What a situation.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call

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We previously discussed the extradition treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom here.

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To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Traffic Enforcement Plays an Important Part in the US Criminal Justice System

March 21, 2012

Nlets released the following:

By: Kayelyn Means

Nlets: The International Justice and Public Safety Network

Traffic enforcement is often an extensive part of a law enforcement official’s day to day job. In these tough economic times it is expensive and difficult for agencies to meet the traffic enforcement needs within their community. Companies specializing in red light, speed and toll violation cameras have found and important technical niche in providing contracted solutions to law enforcement agencies as integral resources used by law enforcement to determine traffic violators and issue the proper citations. Nlets, the International Justice and Public Safety Network, has also expanded its focus to serve as a resource in traffic enforcement.

Each time a law enforcement official sends a registration or driver’s license query beyond their state borders, it travels across the Nlets network and back in less than a second – more than 100 million times each month. Without realizing it, law enforcement officials use the Nlets network every time they send a query out of state, which is often the case with traffic violations. Very few law enforcement officials know about this driving force providing them information and working to expand their information sharing capabilities, particularly in their pursuit to enforce state and local traffic laws.

Nlets, the International Justice and Public Safety Network, is a 501(c)3 not for profit organization owned and governed by the states. With an operational site located in Arizona, the state-of-the-art Nlets system and network provides information services, data sharing, and support for justice-related agencies across the country, connecting states, federal agencies, and select regional and international agencies.

The Nlets network runs over 1 billion transactions each year, connecting 45,000 user agencies, 1.3 million pc, mobile and handheld devices in the U.S., and more than 1.2 million users, and runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year with an average uptime of 99.99%. These transactions range from driver’s license and registration queries to concealed weapon permits, state warrant and criminal history queries, and many others.

Through some of Nlets’ expanding initiatives to aide with law enforcement, twenty-seven states are also currently sharing driver’s license and corrections photos with other states across the Nlets network. Another exciting Nlets’ project includes a National License Plate Reader (LPR) Pointer System prototype that will index LPR images nationally for law enforcement inquiry. Nlets strives to also assist traffic enforcement by partnering with red light, speed, and toll violation companies through a strictly regimented strategic partner program that is approved by the states. Red light and speed camera companies use automated camera technology to provide speed and red light enforcement services to traffic and law enforcement agencies throughout the country, while toll violation camera companies capture images of vehicles in violation of toll way laws. With the combined efforts of Nlets and law enforcement contracted traffic violation camera companies, vehicle registration data is shared quickly and efficiently to better serve traffic enforcement working to accurately determine all violators, and prevent further traffic violations.

“By partnering with Nlets, traffic violation camera companies that are contractually obligated to specific law enforcement agencies have secure, appropriate and limited access to motor vehicle registration data to better serve their customers – law enforcement,” says Kyle Darnell, Nlets Project Manager responsible for Nlets partnerships.

Nlets has been partnering with traffic violation companies since 2004, when it first partnered with the American Traffic Solution (ATS). Nlets now has eight active partners in the industry and three more in development. Technology and enforcement are here to stay in these tough economic times.

“Our traffic violation company partners streamline the enforcement process for the jurisdictions it serves. It also enables local police departments to issue tickets to out-of-state vehicles which will results in more effective enforcement for law enforcement,” says Kyle Darnell.

On another important technology front, for the past several years Nlets has been working on another sharing initiative, the Nlets Interstate Sharing of Photos (NISP), which currently provides the interstate sharing of driver’s license and corrections images to law enforcement agencies in 27 states, as they query an individual over the Nlets network.

This initiative functions as a grant funded by the National Institute of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. The major benefits of sharing driver’s license and corrections images include the straightforward, instant, photo identification and detection of fraudulent use of driver’s licenses or other false identification.

“It is essential that we provide law enforcement and public safety officials with the capability to share interstate driver license and corrections images over Nlets. Law enforcement needs access to images to protect the public, as well as for their own safety,” says Wendy Brinkley, Nlets North Carolina representative and past Nlets President. “The interstate sharing of images over Nlets plays an integral part in saving time and effort, and increasing the safety of officers and citizens.”

Currently, 27 states are in production to share driver’s license and corrections images, with eight more scheduled for development in 2011-2012. Nlets hopes to further spread this capability to all 50 states and each of the U.S. territories, as the individual states become technically able to do so. This job will not be done and, Nlets will continue working with each state and grant funders until this important capability is implemented in every state.

In a recent effectiveness study of states participating in NISP, all participants reported success in general state law and traffic enforcement, and improved ability for making positive identification of individuals, and the vast majority of the participants reported success in regional and local law enforcement, as well as improvements in detecting ID theft and in apprehensions.

In addition to sharing driver’s license images and partnering with traffic enforcement, Nlets is working to create a LPR Pointer System prototype to establish a single national LPR repository that law and traffic enforcement agencies across all states can access to determine if a license plate has been captured by an LPR camera.

“The national LPR Pointer System that is being created will provide a valuable tool set to law enforcement in the US and Canada for years to come,” says Frank Minice, Nlets Chief Information Technology Officer. “In addition to serving as a national search capability for license plate readers, this will work with Nlets’ proactive alerting notification capability project, which is still in development.”

This repository will consist of meta-data about the capture event (date, time and location coordinates), the license plate number, any agencies capturing the data, and possibly a thumbnail image of the license plate.

“With this prototype, a law enforcement agency can query one location, Nlets, to find out if a license plate has been captured in an area, region, or across the entire United States. This also allows for proactive alerting to notify a law enforcement agency as soon as a license plate they are looking for is added to the Nlets repository,” said Ted Rainer, who is leading the Nlets LPR Pointer System prototype project.

The Pointer System will be housed at the Nlets facility, but will be accessible by all states and agencies connected to the Nlets network.

While these initiatives are in the forefront of Nlets’ work with traffic enforcement, there are many other projects and grants in production in the background, all with the common mission to enhance information and data sharing, and increase officer safety. Nlets is always looking for ways to expand and seeking ideas for new grants and projects that serve the Nlets vision, “To continue to be the premier provider of the network, system and services that will support and encourage a totally standardized, integrated, international justice system.”

To learn more about Nlets, please visit http://www.nlets.org.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call

————————————————————–

We previously discussed the extradition treaty between the United States and ?? here.

————————————————————–

To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.