Photo: AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit
The “Merchant of Death” may finally face trial in the U.S.
The Dept. of Justice and DEA nailed notorious international arms dealer Viktor Bout — currently in a Thai jail — and an American associate — currently on the run — today for allegedly trying to purchase two aircraft from U.S. companies in violation of economic sanctions to prevent the flow of weapons to African conflicts.
The indictment unsealed today also charged the pair with money laundering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, and six separate counts of wire fraud.
The charges are just the latest attempt by authorities to prevent Bout from getting all manner of equipment, especially weapons, to armed groups. (Bout has maintained his innocence, claiming he just provides logistical support where no one else can.)
The Russian-born Bout — also known as “Boris,” “Victor Anatoliyevich Bout,” “Victor But,” “Viktor Budd,” “Viktor Butt,” “Viktor Bulakin,” “Vadim Markovich Aminov,” and most notably, the “Merchant of Death” — was made famous by the 2005 movie starring Nicolas Cage, Lord of War, which was loosely based on his life.
And what a life. Bout has been an international weapons trafficker since the 1990s, carrying out a massive arms-sales business using a fleet of cargo planes to transport weapons and military equipment. Bout’s business is said to have fuelled conflicts in Afghanistan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Sudan — some of the most brutal and devastating episodes of violence of the past two decades.
While his partner, Richard Ammar Chichakli, is on the run, Bout has been in Thai custody since March 2008. Denied by Thailand, the U.S. has already tried to extradite him on a separate set of charges that Bout conspired to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to the Colombian “FARC” to be used to kill Americans there. It’s not clear if the U.S. will be succesful this time either.
Here’s the Lord of War trailer:
For comparison, here’s the full indictment:
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