Monday, August 16, 2010

UK Freight Forwarder Arrested For Extradition Over Arms Shipment

Allegations of Attempts to Beat Iran Embargo
Shipping News Feature

UK – US – A huge diplomatic row is brewing over the arrest, detention and possible extradition of Christopher Tappin, 63 year old director of Brooklands International Freight Services, a reputable freight forwarder established in 1976 and listed in the Handy Shipping Guide and members of BIFA, IATA and FIATA. Mr Tappin was arrested three months ago at his Kent home and faces extradition proceedings in a fortnight’s time with regard to a potential shipping contract.

The case has reignited the row over the imbalance between the British and American terms of the agreement which allows British nationals to be extracted from the country for trial in the US without evidence being assessed in a UK Court. US citizens cannot be extradited to the UK without at least prima facie case details being subject to Court proceedings in their home country.

Mr Tappin was arrested after a meeting with an American who, apparently unknown to him, had been detained by US authorities and supposedly persuaded to work for them as a ‘plant’ to uncover attempts to avoid the trade embargo with Iran. Mr Tappin then liaised with US company Mercury Global Enterprises. This company is allegedly a US Government controlled cover operation, offering as it does access to military equipment and subsequent to this contact came Mr Tappin’s detention.

Mr Tappin insists that he was acting as a freight forwarder for a shipment of batteries to the Netherlands and had no knowledge of anything untoward. Whether or not there is a case to answer the circumstances have once again stirred up the controversy regarding the extradition treaty. London Mayor Boris Johnson’s brother Jo, and MP for Orpington has apparently taken up the case and it has brought stern words of criticism from Liberty Director Shami Chakrabarti who has reiterated comments she made over the recent case of Asperger’s Syndrome sufferer Gary McKinnon.

This is a new twist on the eternal problems of those in the freight industry when it comes to the legality of their customers. We have had cases of lorry drivers detained for months, sometimes years, when to anyone in the industry they have plainly been duped into accepting a consignment pre-laden with drugs, to which they could have had no access. Containers stuffed with munitions have caused vessels to be seized when they have obviously been loaded outside the control of the shipping line concerned and there is the continuing problem of illegal immigrants who ‘jump’ any available lorry entering the country without the driver’s knowledge.

It seems it will be necessary for forwarders to now watch for potential ‘sting’ operations when approached by a new client, as the old proverb says, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.