Written by Jim Kouri
May 11, 2008
US Indicts Top Int'l Arms Dealer for Conspiracy to Kill Americans, Terrorism
by Jim Kouri, CPP
A major international arms dealer -- Viktor Bout, a/k/a Boris, a/k/a Victor Anatoliyevich Bout, a/k/a Victor But, a/k/a Viktor Budd, a/k/a Viktor Butt, a/k/a Viktor Bulakin, a/k/a Vadim Markovich Aminov -- was indicted for, among other things, conspiring to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (the FARC). FARC is designated by the US State Department as a foreign terrorist organization based in Colombia.
Bout is also accused of providing terrorists with weapons to be used to kill Americans in Colombia.
One of the world's top arms dealers, Bout was arrested by police Thailand on a provisional arrest warrant on April 9, 2008. The warrant was based on a complaint filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, charging conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization. Bout has been in custody in Thailand since March 6, 2008.
According to the indictment, which was unsealed on Friday in Manhattan federal court:
Bout, an international weapons trafficker since the 1990s, has carried out his weapons-trafficking business by assembling 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 United States Office of Foreign Assets Control within the Department of Treasury placed Bout on the Specially Designated Nationals list, which prohibits any transactions between Bout and US nationals. It also 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 FARC millions of dollars' worth of weapons -- including surface-to-air missile systems (SAMs), armor piercing rocket launchers, AK-47 firearms, millions of rounds of ammunition, Russian spare parts for rifles, antipersonnel land mines, C-4 plastic explosives, night-vision equipment, "ultralight" airplanes that could be outfitted with grenade launchers and missiles, and
unmanned aerial vehicles.
Bout agreed to sell the weapons to two confidential sources working with the DEA (the CSs), who claimed that they were acquiring these weapons for the FARC, with the specific understanding that the weapons were to be used to attack United States helicopters in Colombia. The US military provides help and support to their Colombian counterparts especially with the task of protecting Colombia's oil fields and facilities
As described in the Indictment, during a covertly recorded meeting in Thailand on March 6, 2008, Bout stated to the Confidential Sources 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 said that he understood that the CSs wanted the arms for use against American personnel working in Colombia, and he advised them 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 mercenaries to train the FARC in the use of the arms.
The Indictment unsealed on Friday charges Bout with four separate terrorism
Count One: Conspiracy to kill United States nationals;
Count Two: Conspiracy to kill United States officers or employees;
Count Three: Conspiracy to acquire and use an antiaircraft missile; and
Count Four: Conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
If convicted, the arms dealing terrorist faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment on each of Counts One through Three, including a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years' imprisonment for Count Three. Bout faces a maximum sentence of 15 years' imprisonment on Count Four.
The case was assigned to United States District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin and the US government is aggressively pursuing Bout's extradition from Thailand.
During a press conference in New York City, Mr. Garcia praised the investigative work of drug enforcement agents with the US Drug Enforcement Administration. He also thanked the Royal Thai Police, the Office of the Attorney General for Thailand, and the Royal Thai government for their assistance.
"Viktor Bout has long been considered by the international community as one of the world's most prolific arms traffickers," said US Attorney Michael J. Garcia. "Now, Bout is in Thai custody facing extradition to the United States, where he will be prosecuted for agreeing to arm a terrorist organization whose [aim] was to kill American citizens."
"Viktor Bout no doubt faces some of the most extraordinarily serious conspiracy charges possible for his crimes against Americans," said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he's a staff writer for the New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he's the new editor for the House Conservatives Fund's weblog. Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty.