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RIA Novosti

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Russia's 'Merchant of Death' to face trial in Thailand

Topic: Viktor Bout case

10:37 07/03/2008
MOSCOW, March 7 (RIA Novosti) - Notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout must face trial in Thailand before his extradition to another country, a Thai newspaper reported on Friday citing a police official.

Bout, 41, is a former lieutenant in the Russian military and an alleged illegal arms trafficker nicknamed "the Merchant of Death". He was arrested on Thursday in a five-star hotel in Bangkok in what appears to be a joint sting operation, involving law enforcement agencies from Thailand and the U.S.

"We will take legal action against him here, before deporting him to face trial in another country, [most] likely the U.S.," the Nation newspaper quoted Major General Pongpat Chayaphan, the commander of Thailand's crime suppression division, as saying.

The U.S Justice Department earlier said they would seek Bout's extradition following new charges against him and his accomplice, Andrew Smulian, involving a deal to sell weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which is designated a terrorist organization in the U.S.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Bout and Smulian agreed to sell and deliver surface-to-air missiles, helicopters and armor-piercing rocket launchers in a series of phone calls and e-mails to two DEA informants posing as FARC members.

Russia also said on Thursday it may request his extradition after receiving investigation materials from Thailand, but did not specify whether the arms dealer would face any criminal charges in the country.

Bout has reportedly been trafficking weapons to Central and West Africa since the early 1990s. U.N. reports say he set up a network of more than 50 aircraft around the world to facilitate his smuggled arms shipments.

He is considered by Western law enforcement agencies to be "the most prominent foreign businessman" involved in trafficking arms to UN-embargoed destinations from Bulgaria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and other countries.

Recent reports suggest he is also operating in Iraq using front companies and Cargo Airlifts (Airline Transport, Air West, Aerocom and TransAvia Export).

Russia's Interpol branch confirmed on Thursday that both Belgium and Interpol issued warrants for his arrest in 2002.

U.S. authorities, which suspect Bout of helping Taliban and al-Qaeda militants, took measures against Bout in 2005, freezing his accounts and submitting a list of 30 companies linked to Bout to the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee.

Bout had earlier categorically denied accusations in an interview with Moscow radio station Ekho Moskvy, saying "I have never supplied anything to or had contacts with the Taliban or al-Qaeda."

In 2007, Stephen Braun and Douglas Farah published a book about Bout entitled 'Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible.'

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RIA NovostiRussia's 'Merchant of Death' to face trial in Thailand

10:37 07/03/2008 Notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout must face trial in Thailand before his extradition to another country, a Thai newspaper reported on Friday citing a police official.>>

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