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Merchant Of Death, Viktor Bout, Found Guilty On Four Charges, Sentencing Set For February
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Merchant Of Death, Viktor Bout, Found Guilty on Four Charges, Sentencing Set for February

Viktor Bout has long been called the Merchant of Death, amassing billions of dollars in proceeds from his sale of helicopters, weapons and other items under the ruse of a worldwide cargo operation. After eluding authorities for many years, Bout was finally caught in a drug/weapon sting in Thailand in 2008. The Russian authorities objected to the operation and to Bout's extradition to the US in 2010.

According to the court documents and evidence presented at his federal trial, Bout did conspire with a known associate and at least two others to sell weapons to South Americans who had blatantly announced their intention to use those weapons against Americans in Colombia, including helicopter pilots and others.

Viktor Bout had spent nearly twenty years as a former Soviet military officer before starting to build a fleet of cargo planes that grew to over sixty and flew operations for hundreds of companies world wide. While he did deliver a number of legitimate products, authorities have said that it has been his black market weapons that has been his major source of revenue for all of these years. Most of the weapons that he allegedly sold were either Russian or from other Eastern European countries.

Authorities from the US, Britain and the UN had received information that Bout might have been supplying weapons and aid to the Taliban in Afghanistan who were sheltering al Qaida operatives. Bout has denied claims that he worked with either group.

Bout was in Moscow, dealing with both economic sanctions and a travel ban when he was asked about the possibility of supplying weapons to militia groups in Colombia. Part of the sting hinged on Bout knowing that the payment would be coming from drug trafficking proceeds and that the weapons were intended to be used against Americans in Colombia. Andrew Smulian, a South African businessman, testified in federal court as part of a plea agreement that Bout had said no when the deal was first offered, saying that he did not want to deal with drug traffickers. That information is being used by Bout's defense team to establish that he actually did not intend to sell weapons to the men, only two airplanes.

The prosecutors contend that in taped conversations, Bout did agree to sell as many as 100 tons of weapons to be dropped into Colombia after receiving a $20 million downpayment. The tapes, played in court, have several of the people in the room discussing plans to use the weapons to kill Americans with Bout agreeing with that plan. He was convicted on four charges of conspiracy and could face life in prison when sentencing begins.


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