AN air cargo accomplice of Viktor ‘Merchant of Death’ Bout will be free within the year after turning star witness in Bout’s trial.
Having already been held in custody since 2008 Andrew Smulian’s five-year sentence will see him released in only a few months.
The judge who sentenced the two described Smulian as a “harmless dupe” after Smulian claimed he had spent his years in custody trying to “rebuild himself.
“I categorically accept full responsibility for my conduct,” Smulian told the court, apologising for the “magnitude, seriousness and the dire consequences of the crimes” he had committed.
Smulian was born in the UK in 1941, but raised in South Africa, serving in its air force. He later became a South African intelligence agent who used his air cargo company to spy on neighbouring African countries hostile to the apartheid regime.
In the late 1990s, Smulian helped Bout to set up a South African base, and Swaziland and Zambian companies for his operations.
Smulian then became, according to the judge, a “financially vulnerable, out-of-work” air transporter who would never “have been involved in terrorism” had it not been for the US plot to capture Bout.
In 2007, the US Drug Enforcement Administration, masquerading as Colombian terrorists, tricked Smulian into a fake arms deal just so Smulian could in turn lure Bout into the deal. Bout initially refused saying that he did not work with drug dealers but finally agreed to a down payment of US$20m for ground-to-air missiles and automatic weaponry.
Bout’s lawyer, Albert Dayan, describes Smulian as a liar who had become “intoxicated” with an arms deal that would be “his retirement plan”.
Dayan is currently working on having Bout extradited back to Russia. In the mean time, Bout has been moved from a maximum-security prison in New York to a medium one in Illinois.