Network of arms dealer Viktor Bout is alleged to have armed Qaida, Taliban
NEW YORK: International arms dealer Viktor Bout, whose network is alleged to have armed the Al-Qaida and Taliban, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison by aUScourt for conspiring to supply deadly weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, to a Colombia-based terror group.
A former Soviet Air Force officer, Bout, dubbed as ‘Merchant of Death’, has also been handed down a sentence of five years of supervised release and fined USD 15 million. Prosecutors had sought the life sentence for the 45-year-old arms dealer.
Bout ran an international arms-trafficking ring and is said to have supplied weapons to many dictators who used it against their own civilians.
“Bout has been international arms trafficking enemy number one for many years, arming some of the most violent conflicts around the globe,” Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said.
He said the sentence is a “fitting coda for this career arms trafficker of the most dangerous order” and who has finally been brought to justice in an American court for agreeing to provide a staggering number of military grade weapons to an avowed terrorist organisation committed to killing Americans.
Meanwhile, Russia today condemned the sentencing of Bout as “baseless and biased” and said it would do all it could to ensure his return home.
“The Russian foreign ministry views the US court verdict sentencing Viktor Bout to 25 years in prison as baseless and biased,” the ministry said in a statement.
Bout was convicted in November last year on all four counts for which he was charged after a three-week jury trial before US District Judge Shira Scheindlin.
He was arrested in Thailand in March 2008 and subsequently charged in a four-count indictment in April 2008. At trial, he was convicted of conspiring to kill US nationals, officers and employees, conspiring to acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles and conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organisation — the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia.
Bout ran an international arms-trafficking network that officials said armed Al-Qaida and the Taliban, and provided weapons for civil wars in Africa.