Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

"Merchant of Death" caught in Thailand

A big, big fish, and a significant win in the war on terror. He is Viktor Bout, and he's sold arms to some of the worst animals in the world:

The U.S. is seeking the extradition of a suspected Russian arms dealer dubbed the "Merchant of Death," but for now he will remain in Thailand, where authorities are investigating if he used the country as a base to negotiate a weapons deal with terrorists, officials said Friday.

Viktor Bout, a 41-year-old whose dealings reportedly inspired a 2005 movie about the illicit arms trade, is accused of running weapons to al-Qaida, the Taliban and parties involved in bloody conflicts across Africa. He was arrested at a Bangkok hotel after a four-month sting operation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Thai and U.S. authorities said.

"He is called the 'Merchant of Death' and 'Man of War' for a reason," Thomas Pasquarello, regional director of the DEA, said in Bangkok.

American authorities intend to extradite Bout but the timing still has to be "worked out" between the two nations, Pasquarello said.

Thailand is investigating whether Bout was involved in "procuring weapons for terrorists and conspiring with terrorists," Lt. Gen. Adisorn Nontree said.

Authorities in New York unsealed a criminal complaint Thursday charging that Bout conspired to sell millions of dollars in weapons — including 100 surface-to-air missiles and armor-piercing rockets — to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

The U.S. considers the leftist rebels, who have been fighting Colombia's government for more than 40 years, a terror group. Bout and associate Andrew Smulian were charged with "conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization."

The DEA was involved because, according to the criminal complaint, the FARC uses weapons to protect its cocaine trafficking business, which helps to finance its operations.

Thai police Col. Petcharat Sengchai said Smulian was still being sought.

Handcuffed and expressionless, Bout was paraded before journalists at the news conference but refused to answer questions.

Regarded as one of the world's most wanted arms traffickers, Bout's alleged list of customers is said to include African dictators and warlords, including Charles Taylor of Liberia, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and both sides of the civil war in Angola.

He is believed to have used a fleet of planes and contacts from his days in the Soviet Air Force to buy weapons in formerly communist Eastern Europe and deliver them to rebel groups around the world.

He is generally believed to have been a model for the arms dealer portrayed by Nicolas Cage in the 2005 movie "Lord of War."

The DEA complaint filed in New York federal court reads like a spy thriller, telling how agents infiltrated Bout's organization and posed as FARC rebels. They used at least three informants to reach the reclusive and secretive Bout through Smulian, identified as a business associate.

Meetings between the informants and Smulian took place over four months on the Caribbean island of Curacao and in Copenhagen and Romania to discuss the purchase of armaments and surface-to-air missiles worth millions of dollars, the complaint said, and included air dropping the weapons into FARC territory.

Smulian at one point even suggested Bout could procure helicopter gunships for the rebels.
In New York, U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia would not say how much the weapons involved in the alleged deal were worth but said the cost of transporting them alone was set at $5 million. He said the weapons were to be parachuted to FARC fighters in Colombian territory.

U.S. authorities tipped off Thai authorities Monday that Bout was expected to arrive to complete the FARC arms deal and a Thai court issued an arrest warrant the next day, Adisorn said.

This guy is a grade-A POS. He's sold to Charles Taylor of Liberia, and is even accused of selling weapons to the Taliban (during and after the Soviet occupation), and to al Qaeda. Granted that has yet to be proven. But there are two things certain at this point. First, this guy is done. Out of business. The second is that there are other arms dealers out there celebrating his capture, and will scurry quickly to "buy" up the buyers he once had. So, while the cycle still goes on, Viktor Bout is done, and hopefully for good.

Publius II


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