A GUN dealer from near York was today beginning a seven-year jail sentence over a huge arms shipment from China to Nigeria.

Gary Hyde, 43, of Mask Lane, Newton-on-Derwent, helped ship thousands of AK47 assault rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition.

He looked tearful as he was sentenced at London’s Southwark Crown Court yesterday following his conviction for two counts of breaching UK trade controls and concealing criminal property. He moved the weapons without a licence and hid more than a million US dollars (£620,460) in commission payments.

The deal between the two countries’ governments was lawful, but Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith said middleman Hyde was caught out by his own greed. He failed to apply for a licence to take part in the deal, fearing it would be refused, but was attracted by the “enormous profits” to be made, the judge said.

Hyde, supported in court by his family, legitimately ran and expanded wholesale business York Guns to the point where it employed 20 staff in 2003. He has since left the company. He helped broker various arms deals, including some for the British Government.

However, in 2006 he got involved in the deal between China and Nigeria which saw up to 40,000 AK47s, 30,000 rifles and 10,000 9mm pistols go to the African nation along with 32 million rounds of ammunition.

Hyde was convicted after a retrial on two counts of becoming knowingly concerned in the movement of controlled goods between March 2006 and December 2007.

He was also found guilty of one count of concealing criminal property between March 2006 and December 2008 after he hid the profits in a bank in Liechtenstein.

Meanwhile, in America, it is not yet known whether Hyde will still have to stand trial on charges of smuggling illegal AK-47 parts into the United States. Hyde has been accused of conspiring with another York businessman, Karl Kleber, and a third man, Paul Restorick, in the alleged smuggling of AK-47 magazines, to be sold on by a firm called American Tactical Imports.

Kleber and Hyde were arrested in January last year while travelling to the US for a firearms show in Las Vegas. The US Attorney’s department declined to comment yesterday on what would happen with the US case.

York Guns said in a statement last night that it had never been implicated in any wrongdoing, and no allegations had been directed at the company.

“Once we were made aware of the allegations against Mr Hyde, we undertook a full internal audit to ensure that all licensing obligations had been undertaken correctly,” it said.

“We can confirm this process was completed to the satisfaction of all relevant authorities. This included a full forensic report on all company activities. This was found to contain no link to YGL and Mr Hyde’s dealings abroad.

"The decision was taken by YGL to suspend Mr Hyde with immediate effect. Following the above internal investigation, Mr Hyde was summarily dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct to enable the company to trade successfully and secure the future of its staff.”