Author Topic: 'Merchant of Death' jailed for 25 years in US  (Read 961 times)

Offline Johnnie F.

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'Merchant of Death' jailed for 25 years in US
« on: April 06, 2012, 10:36:05 AM »
'Merchant of Death' jailed for 25 years in US

World's most notorious arms dealer sentenced for plot to sell weapons to Colombian terrorists

Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer dubbed “the Merchant of Death”, was last night sentenced to 25 years in a US federal prison after being convicted of helping a Colombian terror group that was seeking to kill Americans.

The sentence by New York District Judge Shira Scheindlin brings down the final curtain on a sinister story spanning five continents and featuring some of the nastiest conflicts of the past 20 years, from the Middle East to Afghanistan and Africa's civil wars.

Prosecutors depicted Bout, 45, as an amoral criminal who caused misery around the world. But to the end he protested his innocence, telling the judge the charges were false. "It's a lie," he shouted, saying he never intended to kill anyone. "God knows this truth." Trained in the GRU, the former Soviet military intelligence service, Bout began his career in arms trading around 1990. By the end of the decade, he was a multimillionaire, shipping weapons around the world in 30 aircraft.

By the early 2000s, however, international pressure mounted, as first the United Nations and then the US imposed sanctions against a man that prosecutors called a "transnational criminal" who was "ready, willing and able" to supply arms to terrorists and tyrants. Such was Bout's notoriety that he inspired the arms dealer played by Nicolas Cage in the 2005 film Lord of War.

In 2007 the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) launched an investigation into Bout, setting up a scheme to lure him into agreeing to sell Russian ground-to-air missiles and other weapons to agents posing as representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), whose operations were largely financed by drug trafficking. The insurgent group has long been classified by the US as a terrorist organisation, and Washington has regularly dispatched special forces and intelligence units to help Colombian police. By committing to sell weapons to the Farc, Bout could thus be charged with conspiring to kill American citizens – charges which under US law can be brought against foreign citizens in foreign countries.

In 2008, DEA agents managed to coax Bout out of Russia to Thailand, where they taped him in a Bangkok hotel room where the deal was settled and he was arrested. Despite intense pressure on the Thai authorities from Moscow, was finally extradited back to the US in 2010.

After his conviction, Bout was held first held in solitary confinement, before being released into the general population at the New York prison where he has been held before sentencing.

All along Bout has maintained he was just a businessman, who fell victim to a vendetta by the American government. Bout's lawyer, Albert Dayan, accused the US of "outrageous" conduct after his client turned down a first approach to enter into a deal with the Farc. Prosecutors said Bout's trading made him a threat to the entire world.

The Independent

Offline thaiga

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Re:'Merchant of Death' Viktor Bout Russia condemns US sentence video
« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2012, 07:46:51 PM »
US sentence for arms dealer Bout 'political' - Russia

Bout is appealing against the sentence

Moscow has condemned the US prison sentence for arms dealer Viktor Bout as "political" and says the case will be a priority in relations with Washington.

Bout was jailed for 25 years by a judge in New York for attempting to sell heavy arms to Colombian rebels intending to attack US pilots.

The ex-Soviet officer, who is suspected of dealing in arms since the 1990s, insists he is innocent of the charge.

Moscow may seek to have him transferred to Russia to serve his sentence.

Bout, a Russian citizen, was finally convicted last year after his arrest in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2008 following a sting operation in which US informants posed as Colombian rebels.

Sentencing was delayed twice as his lawyer sought more time to prepare and accused prosecutors of "outrageous government conduct" for allegedly entrapping the Russian.

Judge Shira Scheindlin said 25 years was an appropriate sentence for Bout's crimes given the sting set up by US officials. She also ordered him to forfeit $15m (£9.5m).

Bout's lawyer said an appeal would be made against the conviction.

'Clearly political'

Russia's foreign ministry described the imprisonment as "unfounded and biased", and "clearly political".
"Despite the shakiness of the evidence, the illegal nature of his arrest with US intelligence agents in Thailand and subsequent extradition, American justice carried out what was a clearly political order and ignored the arguments of lawyers and numerous appeals at various levels to protect Russian citizens," the ministry said.

It added that it would take "all necessary steps" to bring Bout home. In the first instance, the BBC's Daniel Sandford reports from Moscow, this is likely to mean asking American officials if he can serve his sentence in Russia.
Bout's trial heard that he had agreed to sell 100 advanced portable surface-to-air missiles and approximately 5,000 AK-47 assault rifles to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) during a meeting at a Bangkok hotel.

Prosecutors say the informants told Bout the weapons would be used to attack US pilots assisting the Colombian government.

Bout is said to have responded: "We have the same enemy."

But in court on Thursday, Bout shouted that the allegations against him were "a lie".

He told the judge through a Russian interpreter he had "never intended to kill anyone".

"These people know this truth," he said, pointing at federal agents sitting in the court.

"They will live with this truth... God forgive you. You will answer to Him, not to me."

Bout's wife, Alla, later described the sentence as a victory for her husband because it was the minimum the judge had been allowed to impose.

"I think that if she had not been limited by the boundaries of the law that exist here, the case would have been dropped," she said.

'Most dangerous'

The conviction relates only to the attempted arms sale in Thailand but the US authorities say Bout sold weapons to dictators and guerrilla forces in Africa, South America and the Middle East.

It is said he began channelling weapons to war-torn parts of Africa during the 1990s.

"Although Bout has often described himself as nothing more than a businessman, he was a businessman of the most dangerous order," prosecutors wrote in a pre-sentencing memo.

The US treasury department banned any trade with Bout in 2004, citing an "unproven allegation" he had made $50m from selling arms to the Taliban.

During the trial, his defence argued Bout was just trying to sell two old cargo aircraft for $5m.

"Viktor was baiting them along with the promise of arms, hoping just to sell his planes," his defence lawyer, Albert Dayan, told the court.

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

Offline thaiga

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Re: US court upholds conviction of Russian arms dealer captured in Bangkok
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2013, 12:38:20 PM »
A US appeals court in New York upheld Friday the conviction of Russian "merchant of death" arms smuggler Viktor Bout, who was sentenced to 25 years behind bars.

The pursuit of Bout, "a high-priority criminal target, does not demonstrate vindictive, or even inappropriate government conduct," wrote Judge Jose Cabranes on behalf of a unanimous court.

Bout, imprisoned in the United States, had argued that "the government's conduct constituted an outrageous or vindictive prosecution in violation of his constitutional right to due process of law."

He also claimed that his 2010 extradition from Thailand was "was illegal because it was the consequence of coercive political pressure exerted by the United States."

The court said it found no merit to any of Bout's claims "and, accordingly, we affirm the judgment of conviction of the District Court."

"In this case... the government's motivation to prosecute Bout stemmed from widespread concern that he was engaged in criminal conduct, as evidenced by his placement on numerous United States and United Nations sanctions lists since the early 2000s," it said.

In April 2012, a US judge sentenced Bout to 25 years in prison for conspiring to sell a massive arsenal to anti-American guerrillas in Colombia.

Accused of selling arms to despots and insurgency groups embroiled in some of the world's bloodiest conflicts, he was the inspiration for the arms smuggler played by Nicolas Cage in "Lord of War" (2005).

In fact, the mustachioed Russian is widely believed to have been the world's biggest black market arms dealer in the post-Cold War period, specializing in arming African warlords and dictators.

US agents posing as members of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a US-designated terrorist organization, lured Bout to Thailand from his native Russia, where he was under government protection.

In Bangkok, they pretended to be seeking infantry and anti-aircraft missiles to shoot down American pilots helping the Colombian military.

In secretly taped conversations, Bout said he could supply the weapons. However, his lawyer said in court he was playing a charade in order to further his real goal, which was simply to sell two cargo planes.

Moscow condemned Bout's sentencing last year as "baseless and biased" and said it would do all it could to ensure his return home.
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.