US asks Thailand to extradite Russian arms dealer

May 9th, 2008 - 11:43 am ICT by admin  

RIA Novosti
Moscow, May 9 (RIA Novosti) Thailand has received an official request from Washington to extradite an alleged arms dealer to the US where he has been indicted on charges of conspiracy to kill Americans, officials said. Viktor Bout, 41, a Russian, was arrested in March in Bangkok during a joint police operation led by agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

“We have official confirmation that Thailand has received (Bout’s) extradition request,” press secretary of the Russian Embassy in Bangkok, Alexei Bulkin, said.

US authorities officially brought charges against Bout earlier this week. DEA prosecutors claim that Bout conspired with others to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a leftist group listed by the US as a terrorist organisation.

If convicted, he could face life imprisonment or, at the very least, a long prison term.

Thai authorities said in April that they would not bring charges against Bout, but would keep him in custody pending a decision on a US extradition request.

Bulkin reiterated that Russian diplomats would continue protecting Bout’s rights and would closely monitor the developments by staying in contact with the Thai authorities.

Bout is a former lieutenant in the Russian military who quit the armed forces in 1991. He then allegedly transformed himself into an international arms dealer, earning the nickname “Merchant of Death”. The Western media has consistently referred to him as a “former KGB officer”.

Western law enforcement agencies consider him to be “the most prominent foreign businessman” involved in trafficking arms to UN-embargoed destinations.

UN reports say Bout set up a network of more than 50 cargo aircraft around the world to facilitate his arms shipments.

US authorities took measures against Bout in 2005, freezing his bank accounts and submitting a list of 30 companies linked to Bout to the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee.
RIA Novosti

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