‘Merchant of Death’ sentenced to 25 years in prison

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International arms dealer Viktor Bout, whose network is alleged to have armed the al-Qaeda and Taliban, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison by a US court for conspiring to supply deadly weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, to a Colombia-based terror group.
A former Soviet

Air Force officer, Bout, dubbed as ‘Merchant of Death’, has also been handed down a sentence of five years of supervised release and fined $15 million.

Prosecutors had sought the life sentence for the 45-year-old arms dealer.

Bout ran an international arms-trafficking ring and is said to have supplied weapons to many dictators who used it against their own civilians.

“Bout has been international arms trafficking enemy number one for many years, arming some of the most violent conflicts around the globe,” Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said.

He said the sentence is a “fitting coda for this career arms trafficker of the most dangerous order” and who has finally been brought to justice in an American court for agreeing to provide a staggering number of military grade weapons to an avowed terrorist organisation committed to killing Americans.

Meanwhile, Russia today condemned the sentencing of Bout as “baseless and biased” and said it would do all it could to ensure his return home.

“The Russian foreign ministry views the US court verdict sentencing Viktor Bout to 25 years in prison as baseless and biased,” the ministry said in a statement.

Bout was convicted in November last year on all four counts for which he was charged after a three-week jury trial before US district judge Shira  Scheindlin.

He was arrested in Thailand in March 2008 and subsequently charged in a four-count indictment in April 2008.

At trial, he was convicted of conspiring to kill US nationals, officers and employees, conspiring to acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles and conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization – the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia.

Bout ran an international arms-trafficking network that officials said armed al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and provided weapons for civil wars in Africa. MORE PTI YAS

His legend is said to have inspired the 2005 Nicolas Cage film ‘Lord of War’.

According to the indictment and evidence presented at the trial, Bout agreed to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to the FARC, including 700-800 surface-to-air missiles, over 20,000 AK-47 firearms, 10 million rounds of ammunition, five tons of C-4 plastic explosives, “ultralight” airplanes outfitted with grenade launchers, and unmanned aerial vehicles between November 2007 and March 2008.

He had agreed to sell the weapons to two confidential sources working with the Drug Enforcement Administration, who represented that they were acquiring them for the FARC and would use them to attack American helicopters in Colombia.

During a covertly recorded meeting in Thailand in March 2008, Bout stated to the DEA sources that he could arrange to airdrop the arms to the FARC in Colombia, and offered to sell them two cargo planes that could be used for arms deliveries.

He also provided a map of South America and asked the DEA sources to show him American radar locations in Colombia.

Bout said he knew the arms would be used against American personnel in Colombia, and advised that, “we have the same enemy”, referring to the United States.

He also stated that the FARC’s fight against US was also his fight and that he had been “fighting the United States…for ten to fifteen years.”

During the meeting, he also offered to provide people to train the FARC in the use of the arms.

The evidence presented at trial included a recording of the March 2008 meeting between Bout, the DEA sources and his former associate Andrew Smulian.

Smulian, charged in March 2008, pled guilty in July 2008 and is cooperating with the government.

Since the 1990s, Bout has been an international weapons trafficker.

As a result of his weapons trafficking activities in Liberia, the US Office of Foreign Assets Control within the Department of Treasury placed him on the Specially Designated Nationals list in 2004, prohibiting any transactions between him and US nationals and freezing his assets within the jurisdiction of the US.

In : World News

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