‘Merchant of Death’ sentenced to 25 years
07 / 06 / 2012
A US court sentenced infamous arms dealer Viktor Bout to 25 years in prison yesterday. Bout shouted “It’s a lie!” during his prosecutor’s final address.
Bout was convicted of conspiring to sell more than 700 surface-to-air missiles and 20,000 AK-47 automatic rifles to the Colombian terrorist organisation FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia).
The prosecutors claimed Bout sold the arms specifically with the knowledge they would be used against US citizens. However, US District Judge Shira Scheindlin said: “But for the approach made through this determined sting operation, there is no reason to believe Bout would ever have committed the charged crimes.”
Bout insists he was framed.
US law enforcement agents contrived an elaborate sting operation that lured him to Thailand, causing multiple diplomatic and legal grievances with the Russian and Thai authorities. Russian diplomats supported Bout while he faced extradition from Thailand to the US.
The US government says it launched the investigation in 2007 because Bout – nicknamed ‘the Merchant of Death’ – “constituted a threat to the United States and to the international community based on his reported history of arming some of the world’s most violent and destabilizing dictators and regimes”.
The Russian government continues to loudly protest that the arrest was unjust, despite using similar tactics itself to entrap criminals.