Gary Hyde, 43, 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.
Hyde, of Mask Lane, Newton on Derwent, near York, moved the weapons without a licence and hid more than $1m (£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, who was 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 helped broker various arms deals including some for the British government.
But 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.
Hyde, who was of previous good character and served as a special constable for seven years, was also reluctant to apply for a licence in case the UK authorities discovered his tax haven account and his “very substantial earnings”, the judge said.
He told him: “You got carried away by the enormous profits that could be made elsewhere and, it would seem, in some less responsible company.
“I accept you opened your account in Liechtenstein to reduce your tax liability in lawful ways but it was there conveniently for you to launder the money from this unlawful deal.”
The judge added: “Applying for a licence would have been easy.
“There was no evidence you would have got one, the question was never asked.
“I suspect you thought you would not.”
He added: “If you had, you would have also been concerned about the UK authorities finding out about your very substantial earnings.”
Judge Loraine-Smith said Hyde’s offences represented a “sustained and deceitful flouting of the law”.
In mitigation, Hyde’s barrister, Stephen Solley QC, said his client had previously had “an impeccable record”.
And he said Hyde had once alerted the British authorities about a deal happening between China and Libya in which “the very latest missile systems” were going to the north African dictatorship.
A forfeiture and destruction hearing will be held at the court on December 17.
Lincolnshire Police are applying to destroy 12,300 AK47s Hyde owns which are held in a secure warehouse.