Who is Viktor Bout?
Viktor Bout is a Russian arms dealer and an ex-Soviet military translator who used to supply weapons via his number of air transport firms. He was an expert in smuggling weapons from the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union. He is very famous by the name Merchant of Death. He was arrested by the Thailand officials in accordance with the American authority on 6th March 2008 on charges of terrorism. He was moved to US prison upon request on the basis of the Extradition Act by the Thai government.
He was alleged to supply arms to FARC to use weapons against the U.S. Colombian army, but he did not accept the charges levied on him and pleaded not guilty. Bout faced conviction in Manhattan Court with his future plans to kill innocent citizens and the authorities of the United States, deliver the anti-aircraft missiles, and to support the terrorist organization by providing them necessary aid. He was ordered 25 years of imprisonment for his conspiracy and is currently in the US Penitentiary, Marion, since June 2012.
Viktor Bout Early Life
The origin of Viktor Bout is pretty unclear, with the documents of the United Nations stating he hails from Dushanbe. He is supposed to be born on 13th January 1967, but it may not be the exact birthdate sourced. As per the sources from the SA intelligence, his ethnicity is Ukrainian.
Viktor Bout Career
He completed his graduation in foreign languages from the Military Institute and worked as a translator in the Soviet Union armed forces department. He is well-trained in Russian, English, Arabic, Portuguese, French, and Persian languages. He has mentioned on his official website that he worked as a translator in the Soviet Army with the position of lieutenant.
Bout started his business of air transport as the Soviet Union army got dissolved in 1991, but the sources suggest that Viktor had a rank of a major in GRU and a part of the Soviet Air Force after his integral training and was speculated to operate in the KGB. He had particular involvement in the Angola Civil War.
He started the air freight business after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and his companies headed the freight services that involved shipping flowers, frozen meat, and French soldiers to the French Govt., the UN, and the US. He has accepted his visits to Afghanistan a number of times in the 1990s but has refrained from any relation with the terrorist organization of the state.
He was speculated to provide arms to the African armed groups in the 2000s. He was alleged to supply the missiles to Kenya that were to be used to attack Israel in 2002. He was also in touch with the Hezbollah officials in Lebanon at the time of the 2006 Lebanon war, while sources state that he was in Russia when the meeting was held.
During his career, he has continuously changed locations, owned multiple firms, and re-registered his aircraft, making it a tedious task for the officials to obtain evidence against him. He was supposed to be operating from countries like Russia, SA, Belgium, UAE, Syria, and Lebanon.
Viktor Bout Arrest
He was taken into prison by the Royal Thai Police in Bangkok, Thailand, based on the United States Interpol’s intimation of a conspiracy to smuggle weapons to the US to kill the citizens and authorities in the United States as he was involved in supplying weapons to the FARC. After his arrest in March 2008, following the procedures and delay, the Bangkok Criminal Court started hearing for Viktor, considering the extradition request by the United States on 22nd September 2008.
The judgment came in favor of Viktor Bout as the Bangkok Criminal Court considered the extradition request political and not criminal. Later in August 2010, the US appealed in the High Court and they finally succeeded to get custody of Bout from Thailand police and faced a lot of controversy and protests by the Russian government, stating it was illegal.
Following his extradition amidst the Russian protests, the United States court in Manhattan convicted Bout on the basis of a conspiracy to harm US nationals and illegal procurement of aircraft, in addition to the money laundering case.
The US offers the prison trade of Viktor Bout to Russia for the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner
The US has made an offer to the Russian government demanding the release of the WNBA star Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan in against the prison trade of the Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. This is the 1st official public statement made by the US authority since Brittney got arrested in February at Moscow airport carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. The action by the US officials has come after immense pressure on the authority to get back the WNBA star Griner and Whelan back to the United States.
Blinken said that Washington is awaiting a positive response from Moscow as the Russians have been interested in years getting Viktor Bout, famous as The Merchant of Death, back to their country. Viktor Bout was convicted in 2012 and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment for the illicit weapons deal. Griner has been in Russian custody since February following her arrest in Russia and stated that she got it in her bag in haste and did not carry it intentionally, and also his a doctor’s prescription for it. She would face 10 years of imprisonment if found convicted of the transportation of drugs.
Read More: Brittney Griner detention