A YORK arms dealer’s seven-year jail sentence for shipping a huge arsenal to Nigeria has been upheld by appeal court judges.

But they have quashed an order for the destruction of 14,231 guns.

Gary Hyde, of Newton-on-Derwent, was locked up last year after moving an £800,000 consignment of AK47 rifles, 9mm pistols, rifles and 32 million rounds of ammunition from China to Africa, in breach of UK trade controls.

He ignored strict laws set up to control the trade and transportation of weapons, even though he won contracts from the Ministry of Defence to bring in decommissioned weapons from conflict zones, and from the US government to supply anti-Saddam Hussein forces in Iraq.

The court heard he acted in a ‘deliberate and calculated breach of the law’ to pull off the $1.3m deal, in exchange for around £280,000, which he tried to squirrel away in a Liechtenstein bank account.

Sir Brian Leveson, Mr Justice Keith and Mrs Justice Lang said yesterday the destruction of 14,231 ‘lawfully held’ guns – ordered last year by a judge at Southwark Crown Court – should be stopped.

David Wood, for Hyde, said he was not in ‘possession’ of the weapons, as they were ‘in the custody’ of a firm called Skydock Ltd’.

He also argued that the guns were beneficially owned by York-based Jago Ltd, not Hyde, even though Hyde was formerly the sole director of the company, which is now run by his wife.

James Berry, for the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police, argued for the destruction of the weapons because it was feared they could fall into the wrong hands.

The court found Jago Ltd was ‘a company lawfully operating with true, openly disclosed and regulated ownership of the Bosnian weapons, pre-dating any allegations of wrongdoing related to the present conviction’.

The three judges quashed the destruction order, saying it was not ‘possible or appropriate to pierce the corporate veil’ of Jago Ltd.

But they rejected Hyde’s complaints about his prison term, saying: “There is no doubt that the sentence of seven years imprisonment together with disqualification from being a company director for a similar period constitutes a severe penalty.

“It has to seen in the context of the deliberate evasion of controls imposed by law covering the sale of any firearm, let alone firearms of the quantity in this case.

“In the circumstances, the sentence is neither wrong in principle nor manifestly excessive.

“The application for leave to appeal fails.’