‘Lord of War’ weapons smuggler enjoys Russian protection
August 24, 2010 1 Comment
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The case of notorious arms smuggler Viktor Bout is well known. Born in Dushanbe, Soviet Tajikistan, in 1967, Bout served in the GRU (Soviet military intelligence) until the collapse of the USSR, at which point he began supplying weapons to shady groups, ranging from Congolese rebels and Angolan paramilitaries to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In March of 2008, Bout, known as ‘Lord of War’, was finally arrested by the Royal Thai Police, after a tip by US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officers. The latter had managed to lure Bout to Thailand by pretending to be Colombian FARC arms procurers. Recently, Washington scored a second victory by convincing Thai authorities to extradite Bout to the United States on terrorism charges. Presumably, Bout will be tried as an arms smuggler acting on his own accord. But is this right? Former FBI counterintelligence Robert Eringer, who until recently headed the Monaco Intelligence Service, doesn’t think so. In 2002, Eringer investigated Bout’s money-laundering activities, which were allegedly facilitated through Monaco by US-registered company Pastor International. Eringer claims that Russian weapons merchants, including Bout, used the company to launder nearly one billion dollars in sales profits between 1996 and 2001. But Eringer claims to have made another discovery during his investigation: namely that Bout had been “co-opted by the Russian external intelligence service (SVR)” and had been offered shelter by the Russian Federal Security Service in Moscow, despite being named in an international arrest warrant issued by Interpol. Admittedly, Eringer’s allegations are difficult to prove. But they might explain Russia’s furious reaction to Bout’s arrest and extradition order by the Thais. Not only did the Russian Foreign Ministry condemn Bout’s extradition to the US as “unlawful and politically motivated”, but the Russian government also summoned the Thai ambassador to express its “utmost discontent and concern” about the decision. Admittedly, all of this seems rather hyperbolic for a lowly ex-Lieutenant in the Soviet armed forces. Meanwhile, Bout appears certain that he will avoid prison time despite his pending extradition to the US. Could another US-Russian secret deal be in the works?