The alleged 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 defence articles and attempting to import merchandise into the US 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. US District Judge Katharine Hayden rejected pleas for leniency from Lakhani and his wife, referring to what she called his "reprehensible conduct".

Lakhani's trial defence 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 armed group.

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