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November 15, 2010

Thailand Extradites Alleged Russian Arms Dealer to US

Thailand has extradited alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout to the United States to face trial on terrorism charges.  U.S. authorities accuse Bout of conspiring to kill Americans and supporting a terrorist organization.

Thai authorities say Bout was put on a special plane to the United States Tuesday afternoon after the government gave final approval for his extradition.  He is accused of selling weapons that have fueled conflicts in Africa, South America, and the Middle East.

Bout will face trial in the United States for conspiring to kill Americans by selling weapons of war to a terrorist organization.

Bout's handover to U.S. authorities ends more than two and a half years of court battles and a face off with Russian authorities.

Sirisak Tiyaphan is director of the international affairs department at the attorney general's office.  He says Thailand complied with its legal obligations.

"Because we don't have any extradition treaty with Russia …  Yet, we have the treaty with the United States.  So, we have the international commitment to comply with that," said Sirisak.

A Thai appeals court in August ordered Bout sent to the U.S., but his extradition was delayed until a second case against him was dropped.

Bout, a Russian citizen, was arrested in Bangkok in March 2008 following a sting operation by U.S. agents posing as members of the FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. They said they were looking to buy weapons to kill U.S. officials and other citizens.

The U.S. considers the FARC a terrorist organization.

Bout allegedly offered to sell them numerous arms, including shoulder-fired missiles.

Bout says the arrest was a set-up and that he is an innocent businessman operating an air cargo company.

Neither the Russian nor U.S. Embassy in Bangkok had an immediate reaction to the extradition.

Russian authorities have argued the case is politically motivated and that Bout should be sent back to Russia.

Some regional security analysts say Bout, a former military pilot in the Soviet Union, has links to Russia's intelligence agency and authorities in Moscow worry he may reveal sensitive information.