Viktor Bout, a notorious arms dealer who allegedly provided weapons to former Liberian president Charles Taylor, the Taliban and FARC rebels, will soon be extradited to the U.S. — two years after he was arrested in Thailand.
The Department of Justice announced today that Bout will be extradited to face criminal charges of conspiring to sell weapons to a terrorist organization.
Bout was arrested in Thailand in March 2008 after a four-year sting by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. In the sting, agents posed as rebels with Columbia’s FARC, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, looking to make a $15 million arms deal.
Bout, a Russian, has been accused of indiscriminately supplying planes and weapons in conflicts throughout Africa, the Middle East and South America, to anyone who could pay the right price.
That includes U.S. military contractors, according to a 2007 book, Merchant of Death by reporters Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun. Farah and Braun report that the U.S. military paid Bout’s companies $60 million to fly some 1,000 supply trips in and out of Iraq between 2003 and 2005. The flights — subcontracted under such companies as KBR — reportedly happened even after President Bush forbade companies from doing business with Bout.
From the DOJ press release:
We are extremely pleased that the Appeals Court in Thailand has granted the extradition of Viktor Bout to the United States on charges of conspiring to sell weapons to a terrorist organization for use in killing Americans. We have always felt that the facts of the case, the relevant Thai law and the terms of our bilateral extradition treaty clearly supported the extradition of Mr. Bout on these charges.
The prosecution of Viktor Bout is of utmost priority to the United States, but the criminal charges he faces are not solely an American concern. He has been sanctioned by the United Nations for alleged arms trafficking activity and support of armed conflicts in Africa.