Thailand will not charge Russian ‘merchant of death’: lawyer

April 10th, 2008 - 12:38 pm ICT by admin  

RIA Novosti
Moscow, April 10 (RIA Novosti) Thailand will not bring charges against a suspected Russian arms dealer arrested in Bangkok March 6, Viktor Bout’s lawyer said. Bout, 41, was arrested in March in a joint police operation led by the US.

Washington is seeking Bout’s extradition on charges of illegal weapons deals with militant groups, including the Taliban and Al Qaeda, in Middle East and African countries.

His arrest came as part of a sting operation involving a ‘deal’ to sell and deliver surface-to-air missiles, helicopters and rocket launchers to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The group is listed as a terrorist organisation in the US.

“A Thai prosecutor decided today not to charge Viktor Bout in Thailand. After that he (Bout) was rearrested at the request of the US,” Yan Dasgupta said Wednesday.

He said Bout was arrested pending a US extradition request. Bout could face 15 years in prison on the US charges.

Washington has not yet filed the request and has 60 days to do so, the lawyer added.

“We are expecting that a Thai court will authorise his (Bout’s) detention for another 60 days,” Dasgupta said.

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 ‘the 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.

The 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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