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Entries in Merchant of Death (4)

Friday
Apr062012

Russia Slams US Over 'Merchant of Death' Sentencing

U.S. Department of Justice via Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- The Russian government blasted the United States on Friday for its "unjustified" decision to sentence Viktor Bout, the infamous international arms dealer, called the "Merchant of Death" by some, to 25 years in prison and vowed to take the Russian national back home.

"The verdict of the U.S. court sentencing Viktor Bout to 25 years in prison is unjustified and agenda-driven," Russia's Foreign Ministry said on its English-language Twitter account. "The [Foreign Ministry] will do all it can to arrange Viktor Bout's return to his home country. This issue will remain a priority on the Russia – U.S. agenda."

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later added that Russia will support Bout's efforts to appeal the sentence. Lavrov suggested Bout's conviction last November was the result of "unprecedented pressure" from the United States government that interfered with the independence of the court.

Bout, a Russian citizen and ex-Soviet air force officer, was convicted in November 2011 of attempting to sell millions of dollars-worth of arms to Colombia's Marxist rebel group the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) which was targeting Americans.

After years evading capture, Bout was arrested in Thailand in 2008 in a sting operation led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Court records say Bout agreed during conversations with undercover DEA informants to supply surface-to-air missiles, AK-47 rifles, anti-personnel landmines, C-4 plastic explosive, night vision goggles and unmanned drones.

Bout is also believed to have sold arms to terror groups like al Qaeda and the Taliban. He has been accused of fueling conflicts from Africa to South America to Asia, sometimes even allegedly arming both sides. He was mentioned in a 2000 United Nations report as a former air force officer "strongly suspected to be connected to Russian organized crime." The U.N. said he "supplied military equipment and other necessities to all conflict areas in Africa."

He was the inspiration for the arms dealing protagonist played by Nicolas Cage in the 2005 film Lord of War.

Bout is believed to have strong connections to top Russian officials who helped protect him before his capture. Russia bitterly fought against his extradition to the United States, which was delayed until 2010.

On the eve of his sentencing, an attorney for Bout reportedly sent a letter to the U.S. court protesting his prosecution and the entire court process.

"We have called the prosecution of Viktor Bout 'outrageous governmental conduct.' That does not go nearly far enough -- it's a disgrace," the letter said, according to Russia's state-owned RIA Novosti.

In a recent interview with a Russian radio station, Bout, who has maintained his innocence, said the U.S. wasn't looking for the truth in his case.

"Some American arms smugglers are even more guilty but they enjoy freedom," Bout said Wednesday, The Voice of Russia reported.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr052012

Viktor Bout, 'Merchant of Death,' to Be Sentenced

U.S. Department of Justice via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The so-called "Merchant of Death," Viktor Bout is expected to be sentenced Thursday in a New York court for attempting to sell weapons to Colombian terrorists who were targeting Americans.

Bout, a Russian national, faces a minimum of 25 years in prison and could be sentenced to life.

He was convicted in November after his 2008 extradition from Thailand, where he was caught in a sting operation led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

"Today, one of the world's most prolific arms dealers is being held accountable for his sordid past," Attorney General Eric Holder said after Bout's conviction. "Viktor Bout's arms trafficking activity and support of armed conflicts have been a source of concern around the globe for decades."

On the eve of his sentencing, an attorney for Bout reportedly sent a letter to the U.S. court protesting his prosecution and the entire court process.

"We have called the prosecution of Viktor Bout 'outrageous governmental conduct.' That does not go nearly far enough -- it's a disgrace," the letter said, according to Russia's state-owned RIA Novosti.

In a recent interview with a Russian radio station, Bout, who has maintained his innocence, said the U.S. wasn't looking for the truth in his case.

"Some American arms smugglers are even more guilty but they enjoy freedom," Bout said Wednesday, The Voice of Russia reported.

The former Soviet military officer was found guilty of conspiring to kill U.S. nationals in Colombia by selling millions of dollars worth of weapons to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Columbia, a terror group known as FARC. Court records say Bout agreed during conversations with undercover DEA informants to supply surface-to-air missiles, AK-47 rifles, anti-personnel landmines, C-4 plastic explosive, night vision goggles and unmanned drones.

In addition to the charges for which he was convicted, Bout has also been long suspected of supplying weapons to al Qaeda, the Taliban and various African warlords. He was mentioned in a 2000 United Nations report as a former air force officer "strongly suspected to be connected to Russian organized crime." The U.N. said he "supplied military equipment and other necessities to all conflict areas in Africa."

The Russian is thought to be the inspiration for Nicolas Cage's arms dealing character in the 2005 film Lord of War.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov172010

Alleged Arms Dealer Viktor Bout to Stand Trial in New York

Photo Courtesy - Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Viktor Bout sold death, the government alleges, and now he faces life.

Dubbed the "Merchant of Death" for his reputed international arms deals, including the alleged attempted sale of weapons to terrorists, Bout was extradited from Thailand to New York following a two-year negotiation process.

The suspected arms dealer arrived at New York's Stewart Airport in manacles Tuesday night following a flight from Bangkok aboard a Drug Enforcement Administration charter plane.  As he deplaned, a helmet was slapped on his head and he was packed into a government SUV with a team of federal agents for the 60 miles to Manhattan, where he will be held at the Metropolitan Correction Center during his trial.  He now faces 25 years to life in a federal prison if convicted on all counts of a four-count federal arms-trafficking indictment.

According to the Deparment of Justice, between November 2007 and March 2008, Bout, a Russian, allegedly agreed to sell to the Colombian narco-terrorist organization, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) millions of dollars worth of weapons -- "including surface-to-air missile systems; armor-piercing rocket launchers; AK-47 firearms; millions of rounds of ammunition; Russian spare parts for rifles; anti-personnel land mines; C-4 plastic explosives; night-vision equipment; 'ultralight' aircraft that could be outfitted with grenade launchers and missiles; and unmanned aerial vehicles."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov162010

Alleged Russian Arms Dealer Extradited to the US

Photo Courtesy - Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images(BANGKOK) -- Thai police say the man many refer to as the "Merchant of Death" -- alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout -- has been extradited from Thailand to the U.S.

Police say Bout left Bangkok Tuesday in the custody of American agents and will face terrorism charges in the U.S., where he could serve life in prison.

The former Soviet Air Force officer is accused of trafficking weapons to Africa, the Middle East, and South America.  He is also reported to have smuggled arms to Afghanistan during Taliban rule.

Bout was arrested in Bangkok in 2008 after allegedly agreeing to sell weapons to U.S. agents who were posing as middlemen for Colombia's FARC rebels, but his extradition was held up by a series of court cases.

Russia has demanded his release, saying the extradition by the U.S. is politically motivated.  "From a legal perspective, what has taken place cannot have a rational explanation or justification," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.  "It is without doubt that the illegal extradition of Viktor Bout is a consequence of unprecedented political pressure exerted by the U.S. on the government and the judicial authorities of Thailand."

Bout says he is merely a businessman, and that he runs a legitimate air transport business.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio