Merchant of Death Doomed for Not Playing to USA's Rules

Russian businessman Viktor Bout will be extradited to the United States in accordance with the decision taken by the authorities of Thailand after more than two years of legal proceedings. The verdict is not subject to any appeal.

Washington accuses Viktor Bout of illegal arms trade, for which he can be sentenced to life in prison. It is worthy of note that the US State Department showed increased attention in the case.

Viktor Bout's lawyers are going to continue their duel with the US Justice in an intention to prove that this is a solely political case.

Bout was detained in Bangkok in March 2008 at the request from US special services. Washington accused the businessman of violating the UN embargo on arms shipments in Africa's conflict zones.

US special services organized a provocation to arrest the Russian businessman. They introduced themselves as emissaries of FARC - the Colombian organization, which Washington considers a terrorist group. The "emissaries" set out a wish to purchase several helicopters and shoulder-carried missile systems. Bout agreed and was arrested.

The authorities of Thailand showed mixed reactions to the case. At first, Thai judges considered that the arguments from US prosecutors were fair. However, they changed their point of view in August 2009. They said that Thailand did not consider FARC a terrorist group, therefore, the nation did not have any claims against the arrested Russian businessman. As a result, Thailand refused to deliver Viktor Bout to the United States.

The US side immediately appealed against the decision and eventually won the case.

Viktor Bout is a well-known person in the West. Several books have been written and films have been made about "The Merchant of Death."

Bout himself does not accept this demonic image. He stated previously that he owned an air carrier and was dealing with cargo transportations all over the world. However, the West takes those activities as a cover up to illegal arms trade.

Viktor Bout was born on January 13, 1967 in Dushanbe. He graduated from the Moscow Institute of Foreign Languages. Bout is fluent in six foreign languages. Until 1991, he worked as an interpreter in Africa, where he originally established necessary connections for his future business.

Bout was put on international wanted list in 2002. In May of 2002, London asked Moscow to take measures to have the businessman arrested. In 2006, the UN announced that an illegal cartel was supplying weapons to rebels in Angola, Congo, Liberia, Sierra-Leone and Togo in return to blood diamonds. According to Brussels, financial operations were performed in Antwerp, Belgium, which is an international center for diamond trade.

A 2000 United Nations report states that, "...Bulgarian arms manufacturing companies had exported large quantities of different types of weapons between 1996 and 1998 on the basis of (forged) end-user certificates from Togo." And that, "...with only one exception, the company Air Cess, owned by Victor Bout, was the main transporter of these weapons from Burgas airport in Bulgaria." These weapons may have been destined for use by Uniao Nacional para a Independencia Total de Angola (UNITA), one faction in Angola's 1975–2002 civil war.

Viktor Bout's case is not the first one that triggered an international arms scandal. Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, son of the former French president Francois Mitterrand, as well as son of British leader Margaret Thatcher, caused quite a commotion when they were put on trial for illegal arms sales.

As for Bout, Washington does have many questions to ask the businessman. He apparently decided not to play to the rules of the West - that's why he get so much attention from the United States.

Sergey Balmasov

Read the original in Russian

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov