Us Attorney's Office via Pa / AP
This image released by the New Jersey U.S. Attorney's Office purports to show British businessman Hemant Lakhani, 69, from London, right, allegedly attempting to sell a sample shoulder-fired missile to an unidentified FBI informant in a New Jersey hotel in August 2003.
updated 9/12/2005 7:23:25 PM ET 2005-09-12T23:23:25

A British businessman convicted of trying to smuggle shoulder-launched missiles into the United States was sentenced Monday to 47 years in prison, effectively a life sentence for the elderly man.

The plot involved the sale of missiles to a group that Hemant Lakhani, 70, thought would use them to shoot down commercial airliners. The weapons’ buyer and seller were actually government agents.

Lakhani was convicted in April of attempting to provide material support to terrorists, unlawful brokering of foreign defense articles and attempting to import merchandise into the U.S. by means of false statements, plus two counts of money laundering.

Federal prosecutors were seeking the maximum on each count, for a total of 67 years.

U.S. District Judge Katharine Hayden rejected pleas for leniency from Lakhani and his wife, referring to what she called his “reprehensible conduct.”

Lakhani’s trial defense hinged on the argument that he was the victim of government entrapment.

He was arrested in August 2003 at a hotel near Newark Liberty International Airport where he had been meeting with a government informant posing as a representative of a Somali-based militant group.

The government asserted that Lakhani planned to arrange the sale of at least 50 more missiles after the sale of the first one.

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