Bout extradited to the US

THAILAND has finally extradited Viktor Bout (right), the airfreight arms dealer, to the US. Bout will now stand trial in the US for supplying weapons to a variety of warlords and terrorists around the world. He will appear before a federal judge today (Wednesday).

The US attorney general, Eric Holder, called it “a victory for the rule of law worldwide” while Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, described it as an “extreme injustice”.

Bout’s extradition has been a long legal battle with both Russia and the US browbeating Thailand into releasing Bout to them and not the other. Thailand, desperate not to upset either major trading partner has dithered and delayed as long as possible. What affect this will have on Russia and Thailand’s trading relationship is yet to be seen.

The US claims that Bout supplied arms that fuelled conflicts in Afghanistan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Sudan.

Bout has always denied the crimes, claiming he is a victim of the US intelligence agencies.

“The US is trying to create for me the image of an illegal billionaire and an illegal arms dealer,” he said. “I have never traded in weapons, I have never sold weapons.”

He added: “There is absolutely no proof of these allegations and that proof just doesn’t exist.”

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