Alleged arms dealer Viktor Bout whisked to America
Viktor Bout, a former Russian Air Force officer accused of being one of the world's biggest illicit arms traffickers, was handed over to the US by Thai officials.
Russia reacted furiously Tuesday to news that former Soviet air force officer Viktor Bout, dubbed the "Merchant of Death" for his alleged global arms dealing, was hastily plucked from the maximum security Bangkok prison from which he's been fending off extradition efforts for more than two years, and bundled onto a plane bound for the United States.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Bout's extradition had been imminent since August, when a Thai court ruled that he could be sent to the US to face charges of gun running and abetting terrorism.
But Russian officials appeared blindsided by the sudden operation, in which the accused arms dealer was put on a special plane sent from Washington just hours after the Thai government issued final approval for his extradition.
"Undoubtedly, the illegal extradition of Bout is a result of the unprecedented political pressure on the Thai government and the judicial authorities by the United States," Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"This is nothing other than an intrusion into [proper] legal procedures. This makes questionable the independence of the Thai judicial system and decisions made by Thai authorities," it added.
Russian media on Tuesday broadcast an interview with Bout's wife Alla, who said she and Russian officials were deceived about the Thai government's intentions toward her husband.
"The operation [to send him to the US] was secret," Mrs. Bout told the Russia Today network. "The cabinet ordered the extradition of Viktor Bout, even though the prime minister of Thailand had said that while court proceedings are ongoing, he wouldn’t be extradited.... He was shipped to the United States as if he was just a thing, without his documents and without the Russian embassy being informed. The operation was so quick because it is illegal under Thai law. I plan to appeal," she said.