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Tappin pleads guilty to arms charge

Extradited Briton Christopher Tappin's guilty plea over arms dealing charges is "the beginning of the end" of the family's ordeal, his wife has said.

Elaine Tappin said her "overwhelming feeling remains one of anxiety and sadness" but her husband's plea deal with US prosecutors marked "the beginning of the end".

Tappin changed his plea to one count of aiding and abetting the illegal export of defence articles at a hearing in El Paso, Texas, this afternoon and faces a 33-month sentence when he appears in court again on January 9.

Mrs Tappin, of Orpington, Kent, said: "My overwhelming feeling remains one of anxiety and sadness. However at last I dare hope that Chris will be back on home soil next year.

"I feel we are getting to the beginning of the end. It has been a very difficult time for us all and one that would have been infinitely harder had we not received such warm support from friends and strangers alike. For that I shall always remain extremely grateful."

Tappin, 66 on Thursday, had previously denied attempting to sell batteries for surface-to-air missiles which were to be shipped from the US to Tehran via the Netherlands, saying he was the victim of an FBI sting.But he changed his plea in an agreement with US prosecutors.

He remains on bail after being extradited to the US in February.

Tappin's lawyer, Dan Cogdell, said he expected him to serve several months in a US prison while authorities decide whether he can return to complete his sentence in the UK.He was originally thought to have faced up to 35 years in jail if found guilty.

The case followed an investigation which started in 2005 when US agents asked technology providers about buyers who might have raised red flags. Those customers were then approached by undercover companies set up by government agencies.

Tappin, the former president of the Kent Golf Union, pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting the illegal export of defence articles, said a spokesman for the US attorney's office in the western district of Texas.

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