Thailand Extradites Russian Arms Dealer Viktor Bout to U.S.
A Bloomberg newswire article, via SFgate.com, reports:
Thailand extradited Viktor Bout to the U.S. to face terrorism charges, ending two years of legal wrangling over the accused Russian arms dealer dubbed the "merchant of death."
Bout left Bangkok's Don Muang airport on a 14-seat U.S. jet at 1:27 p.m. local time, said Supisarn Phakdinarinath, a Metropolitan Police spokesman. The extradition was approved by Thailand's Cabinet today, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said.
The U.S. says Bout, a former Soviet air force officer, ran an air cargo network that shipped weapons to conflict zones from Afghanistan to Rwanda. Bout has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, saying he was framed by U.S. undercover agents who posed as Colombian rebels during his arrest in Bangkok two years ago.
Bout is charged in the U.S. with conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, conspiracy to kill U.S. officers or employees, conspiracy to acquire an anti-aircraft missile and conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist group. If convicted, he may face life in prison.
Bout's case has fueled a diplomatic dispute between the U.S. and Russia, with each country pressuring Thailand to follow its version of events.