Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Victor Bout, arms dealer, extradited to USA

Victor Bout, an interpreter and a former Russian military airforce officer suspected of arms trafficking, has been extradited to the United States of America by Thailand. Bout, also called the 'merchant of death', is alleged of supplying illegal weapons to various groups and regimes, such as the Taliban, the Sierra leonean Revolutionary United Front, Charles Taylor and al-Qaida. The UN identified Bout in document S/2000/1225 about the monitoring mechanism on Angola sanctions as a "major sanctions buster" [1]. Bout had evaded UN and USA sanctions which would undermine and restrict his business but he claims that he has never sold any weapons and that he runs a legitimate air transport business [2].

Little is known about the person Victor A. Bout. He was born in Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan (1967). He has five passports. and as a graduate from the Soviet Union's military Institute of Foreign Languages, he fluently speaks several languages. His career as an arms trafficker alledgedly began with the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Due to the lack of security the large quantity of abandoned weapons and aircraft could easily be deployed as commodities in the black market [3]. The former military officer owns a fleet of ancient Antonov aircrafts. These are said to have been deployed to transport and sell weapons to clients of several countries that were in a state of civil war [4].

In 2008 Bout was set up and caught in Bangkok, Thailand when he was offered to sell weapons to agents from the US Drugs Enforcement Administration who pretended to be Colombian Farc rebels [3]. The Russian government claims that Bout is innocent but the United States of America (USA) have asked for an extradition to put Bout on trial for the crime of terrorism, money laundering, electronic fraud and several other charges [4].

In March 2008 the USA filed a complaint against Bout. In February 2010 an indictment followed. Thailand rejected the request for extradition of the alledged arms trafficker in August 2009. In August 2009 there was an appeal against the decision to reject extradition in Thailand. In August 2010 the appeals Court of Thailand grants the USA extradition request [5].

The Russian prime minister claims that the extradition to the USA is "illegal" and that this action undermines the USA attempts to "reset" relations between the two countries [6].

Victor A. Bout denied that he sold weapons to al-Qaida and the Taliban on US television in 2009. However, he did confess that he traded weapons to the Afghans in the 90's of the 20th century [7]. The maximum sentence Bout will face when he gets convicted by the US court is life imprisonment [8].


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Footnotes

[1] As quoted from Viktor Bout: five passports, half a dozen languages and alleged friend to all sides, The Guardian. See also UN Doc. S/2000/1225 - Final Report of the Monitoring Mechanism on Angola Sanctions, Chapter IX.
[2] As quoted from
Thailand extradites alleged arms dealer Viktor Bout to US, The Guardian.
[3] See
Viktor Bout: five passports, half a dozen languages and alleged friend to all sides, The Guardian.
[4] See
Background: the life of Viktor Bout, The Guardian.
[5] As quoted from
US v. Viktor Bout , The Hague Justice Portal.
[6] See Suspected Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout to be extradited to US, The Guardian.
[7] See Background: the life of Viktor Bout, The Guardian.

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