Friday, November 19, 2010

Russian Arms Dealer Known As "The Merchant of Death" Prefered Clients Who Murdered Americans

A Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) official stated that Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer who bragged that he was the "Merchant of Death," liked clients who'd use his weapons to murder Americans.

Bout was arrested in Thailand in a clever DEA sting two years ago. On November 16th, after two years of legal proceedings, Bout was extradited to the Southern District of New York from Thailand to stand trial on terrorism charges, the Justice Department announced.

Bout arrived on a DEA charter plane and was brought to a high-security prison in Manhattan, where he will be held pending trial.

Bout, who also goes by many other names, including “Boris,” “Victor Anatoliyevich Bout,” “Victor But,” “Viktor Budd,” “Viktor Butt,” “Viktor Bulakin,” and “Vadim Markovich Aminov,” is scheduled to be presented in Manhattan federal court tomorrow afternoon before U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, to whom the case has been assigned.

“Viktor Bout has been indicted in the United States, but his alleged arms trafficking activity and support of armed conflicts in Africa has been a cause of concern around the world. His extradition is a victory for the rule of law worldwide,” Attorney General Eric Holder said. “Long considered one of the world’s most prolific arms traffickers, Mr. Bout will now appear in federal court in Manhattan to answer to charges of conspiring to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to a terrorist organization for use in trying to kill Americans.”

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, “Viktor Bout allegedly jumped at the chance to arm narco-terrorists bent on killing Americans with an arsenal of military grade weapons. Today’s successful extradition underscores our commitment to protect Americans on our own soil and throughout the world. The historic operation culminating in today’s extradition would not have been possible without the courageous and groundbreaking work of our partners at the DEA.”

“With Viktor Bout now behind bars in the United States, this defendant will finally face his most feared consequence: accountability for his alleged crimes in a court of law,” said Michele M. Leonhart, Acting Administrator of the DEA. “For more than a decade, Mr. Bout is alleged to have plied a deadly trade in surface-to-air missiles, land mines, bullets, death and destruction. Fortunately, with his arrest, extradition, and pending prosecution in the Southern District of New York, his last alleged attempt to deal in death means that he will finally face justice.”

According to the indictment and other court documents:

Until his arrest in March 2008, Bout was an alleged international weapons trafficker. To carry out his weapons trafficking business, Bout assembled a fleet of cargo airplanes capable of transporting weapons and military equipment to various parts of the world, including Africa, South America and the Middle East.

In 2004, as a result of his weapons trafficking activities in Liberia, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) placed Bout on the Specially Designated Nationals list, which prohibits any transactions between Bout and any U.S. nationals, and freezes any of Bout’s assets that are within the jurisdiction of the United States.

Between November 2007 and March 2008, Bout 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.

The FARC is dedicated to the violent overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Colombia and is also the world’s largest supplier of cocaine. Bout agreed to sell the weapons to two confidential sources working with the DEA (the “CSs”), who represented that they were acquiring these weapons for the FARC, with the specific understanding that the weapons were to be used to attack U.S. helicopters in Colombia.

During a covertly-recorded meeting in Thailand on March 6, 2008, Bout stated to the CSs that he could arrange to airdrop the arms to the FARC in Colombia, and offered to sell two cargo planes to the FARC that could be used for arms deliveries. Bout also provided a map of South America, and asked the CSs to show him American radar locations in Colombia.

Bout indicated that he understood that the CSs wanted the arms for use against American personnel in Colombia, and advised that the United States was also his enemy, stating that the FARC’s fight against the United States was also his fight. During the meeting, Bout also offered to provide people to train the FARC in the use of the arms. Following this meeting, Bout was arrested by Thai law enforcement authorities.

The indictment charges Bout with four separate terrorism offenses:

Count one: conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals,

Count two: conspiracy to kill U.S. officers or employees,

Count three: conspiracy to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile, and

Count four: conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization

If convicted of all counts, Bout faces a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison.

This investigation was conducted by the DEA and its success is the result of international law enforcement cooperation efforts spanning the globe. The case is being handled by the Southern District of New York’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anjan Sahni and Brendan R. McGuire are in charge of the prosecution. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and National Security Division, as well as the U.S. State Department, also provided substantial assistance.

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