Is US considering transferring convicted arms smuggler to Russia?

Viktor BoutBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Former Soviet military intelligence officer Viktor Bout is one of the world’s most notorious weapons dealers. In 2008, Bout, known informally as ‘the merchant of death’, was finally arrested in Bangkok by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, with the cooperation of the Royal Thai Police. He was eventually extradited to the US and convicted to a 25-year prison term, which he is serving at the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center in New York. Last week, it emerged that the US Bureau of Prisons was about to transfer Bout to the Florence Federal Correctional Facility in Colorado. Widely referred to as ‘Supermax’, the Florence facility houses some of America’s most notorious prison inmates. It seems a proper fit for someone like Bout, who for decades supplied weapons to African warlords, who is accused by the United States of having supplied weapons to the Taliban, and who was arrested while trying to sell arms to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). On Tuesday, however, it was suddenly reported that the Bureau had decided to delay Bout’s transfer to Supermax. Bout’s attorney, Albert Y. Dayan, said he had been notified in a letter that the Bureau was “re-evaluating where to send Bout” and that it was “reconsidering its plan” to send the notorious weapons merchant to the Colorado maximum security facility. As might be expected, Dayan called the news “a credit [to] the Bureau of Prisons and the US Attorney’s office”; but the question, of course, is why did the Bureau decide on the delay, and what does the US Department of Justice know about it? The answer could perhaps be found in an interview given on Wednesday by no other than the US Attorney General, Eric Holder. Read more of this post

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Trial of ‘Lord of War’ weapons smuggler underway in New York

Viktor Bout

Viktor Bout

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
He is considered the world’s most notorious weapons smuggler; dubbed ‘the merchant of death’, his life’s story inspired the Hollywood blockbuster Lord of War. But his trial, which is currently underway in New York, has so far gone largely unnoticed by the world’s media. Viktor Bout, a former Soviet military intelligence (GRU) officer, was arrested in a sting operation in Bangkok, Thailand, in March of 2008. At the time of his arrest, he and his two collaborators were negotiating a complex weapons deal with two individuals who said they were representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Latin America’s largest leftist paramilitary group. However, the interested buyers turned out to be informants of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which was employing them as part of a sophisticated sting operation. Bout was arrested by the Thai Royal Police and was imprisoned in Bangkok, before being extradited to the United States last year. He is now being tried in Manhattan for attempting to supply arms to the FARC, including machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and even two airplanes. Earlier this week, the jury heard excerpts from recorded conversations between Bout, his accomplices, and the DEA informants, in which the Russian weapons merchant is heard saying that he and the FARC “have the same enemy” —namely the Americans. Bout voiced this comment in response to a DEA informant’s exclamation that the FARC wanted to use the weapons supplied by Bout “to knock down those American sons of bitches”. The deal was never completed, as it was interrupted by Thai police officers, who stormed into the hotel room and captured a stunned Bout. In another sequence in the recordings, Bout is heard saying that he plans to convince the defense minister of an unidentified country to facilitate the transfer of weapons to the FARC by providing him with official documentation. Read more of this post

Russia may swap convicted spy for ‘merchant of death’ held in US

Viktor Bout

Viktor Bout

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Moscow and Washington may swap a Russian former defense official, convicted for spying for the United States, with notorious Russian weapons dealer Viktor Bout, who is being held in a US prison. Andrei Klychev, 49, who worked at Rosatom Russia’s Nuclear Energy State Corporation, was arrested last year on espionage charges. Last week, he was given an 18-year sentence in a closed-door trial, for spying on behalf of the United States. But Russia’s Interfax news agency reported on Wednesday that Russia is actively considering swapping Klychev with Viktor Bout, history’s most notorious weapons smuggler, whose shady activities inspired the 2005 motion picture Lord of War. Bout, who was born in 1967 in Dushanbe, Soviet Tajikistan, served in the GRU (Soviet military intelligence) until the dissolution of the USSR, at which point he began supplying weapons to groups ranging from Congolese rebels and Angolan paramilitaries to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In March of 2008, Bout was 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. Read more of this post