Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout extradited to U.S.November 16th, 2010 - 8:25 pm ICT by BNO News
BANGKOK, THAILAND (BNO NEWS) — Russian alleged arms dealer Viktor Bout on Tuesday was extradited from Thailand, and boarded a U.S. government jet in order to be tried in the country, officials said.
At 1:27 p.m. local time, Bout, 44, boarded the 20-seat plane at Don Mueang airport where around 50 members of the police force, including snipers, made sure the extradition was carried out without any surprises.
Besides Bout, onboard were two pilots and six U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials.
Dubbed as the “Merchant of Death,” Bout had been immersed in a long episode of controversy in which both the U.S. and Russia fought for his extradition since his arrest in March 2008 during a joint U.S.-Thai operation in a Bangkok hotel.
The operation led to conspiracy charges of selling weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The U.S. then requested his extradition as he is accused of trafficking arms to warlords around the world since the 1990s.
However, the extradition, which was ruled in an appeals court on August 20, was delayed in October because of legal issues regarding a second set of charges that included money laundering and fraud.
Bout, who is also a former Soviet air force officer, has denied the charges, saying he was on a business trip selling planes.
Bout had been requested to be extradited by Russia as media speculations say he could reveal military secrets and intelligence operations, and on Tuesday, the Russian embassy in Bangkok said it did not receive notice of his extradition to the U.S., prompting Lak Nitivat, Bout’s Thai lawyer to call it “illegal.”
“The things that are happening today are absolutely outrageous,” Nitivat said, adding that Bout’s wife had not been notified either.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said it will continue to defend Bout.
“From a legal perspective, what has occurred cannot have a rational explanation and justification,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
“Undoubtedly, the illegal extradition of Bout is a result of the unprecedented political pressure on the Thai government and the judicial authorities by the United States. It is deeply regrettable that the Thai authorities succumbed to political pressure from outside and undertook the illegal extradition,” the ministry added.
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