Saturday, March 14, 2009

Merchant of Death Watch: U.S., Russia Spar Over Viktor Bout

Viktor Bout, in Thailand prison in July 2008.

An AP newswire article, vis, reports that:

U.S. President George W. Bush's last meeting with the prime minister of Thailand was in August, a swan song moment before his departure. Yet he made time to bring up the issue of one man: Viktor Bout, also known as the Merchant of Death.

Bout, a Russian businessman who is thought to be the world's most notorious arms dealer, has been held in a Bangkok prison since he was arrested last March after a U.S.-Thai sting operation. The United States is desperate to extradite him for trial to New York, where he has been indicted for allegedly conspiring to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to leftist rebels in Colombia.

The Bush administration "wanted the prime minister to understand that this was an issue of importance to us, given that we have a very solid legal case against Viktor Bout," said Juan C. Zarate, former deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism.

Yet Russia is equally keen to get Bout out of Thailand and back to Moscow. After a yearlong tug of war between Russia and the United States, a Thai judge could rule on Bout's fate as soon as next week.

More here.

Image source: Foreign Policy Passport Blog


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