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Who is Viktor Bout?

Russian Viktor Bout is being held in Thailand. He's accused of being one of the world's biggest arms dealers.

By Monitor researcher Elizabeth Ryan / October 22, 2009



Viktor Bout is a Russian citizen who is accused of being the world’s biggest arms dealer. Dubbed ‘The Merchant of Death’ and ‘The Embargo Buster,’ the US has been pressuring Thailand to extradite him to stand trial since being detained in Bangkok in March 2008.

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Bout has been accused of supplying dictators and warlords with weapons used in civil wars in Africa, the Middle East, and South America. For a time he employed around 300 people and operated a series of air cargo transport companies; he was little known until 2002 allegations of supplying the Taliban in Afghanistan with arms were reported in the media. He was last seen publicly in March of that year.

Arrest: Nabbed at a Bangkok hotel in a meeting with US Drug Enforcement Administration agents who posed as arms buyers for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The indictment claims he offered surface-to-air missiles, landmines, drones, and other advanced weaponry to the FARC.

At issue: The FARC is classified as a terrorist organization by Washington, but Thailand considers it a political movement, which is not grounds for extradition or punishable by Thai law.

In his own words: Bout denied the allegations that he supplied terrorists. In a prison interview in March, he said "I never supplied arms as such at all and I never especially never had any deal with al-Qaeda."

Background
Born: Dushanbe, USSR in 1967. (The area is now Tajikistan.)
Ethnicity: Russian
Education and career: Military Institute of Foreign Languages in Moscow.
Was an interpreter for a military transport aviation regiment in Vitsebsk (Now known as Belarus). Served until 1991. Regiment has since disbanded.
Also translated for UN peacekeeping force in Angola in 1987.
Was in the military, left as a lieutenant.

Criminal history: Charged in 2000 with forging documents in the Central African Republic; convicted in absentia. Charges later dropped. In 2002, Belgium issued an arrest warrant for money laundering.

Bout was the inspiration for the 2005 movie "Lord of War," starring Nicholas Cage.

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What do Russians think of US efforts to extradite its countryman? Read more here.

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