EL PASO, Texas - A British businessman extradited to El Paso, Texas, to face charges that he conspired and acted to export illegal missile defence technology to Iran will stay in federal custody pending trial, authorities said on Monday. Christopher Tappin, 65, of Orpington, Kent, was denied bail and ordered held as a possible flight risk by federal magistrate Robert Castaneda. Tappin surrendered to authorities in England 11 days ago for the purpose of being extradited to face the charges. He has pleaded not guilty.

The 2007 indictment against him by an El Paso grand jury arose from allegations that he tried to buy specialized batteries vital to the operation of modified 1960s-era Hawk anti-aircraft missiles still used by Iran, and to arrange for their delivery.

The would-be dealers he is accused of working with turned out to be US undercover agents.

If convicted, Tappin faces up to five years in federal prison on the charge of conspiracy to export defence articles illegally, up to 10 years on the charge of aiding and abetting the illegal export of those parts and up to 20 years for conspiracy to conduct illegal financial transactions, according to the US attorney’s office.

A trial date has not been set.