A U.S. diplomatic cable lays out American fears last year that Russian associates of suspected arms dealer Viktor Bout were using bribery and deceit to try to prevent his deportation from Thailand.
The cable, released Thursday on the website Wikileaks, describes a meeting in February 2009 between Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and U.S. Ambassador Eric John.
It says John told Mr. Abhisit that Bout's supporters had been using "money and influence" in an attempt to persuade Thai courts to rule that Bout should not be extradited to the United States. John also told the prime minister that witnesses had falsely testified that Bout was in Thailand on legitimate business at the time of his arrest.
The cable, sent from the U.S. Embassy in Thailand to Washington, also says the Americans had learned of a scheme to arrest two U.S. drug agents involved in the case on groundless charges that they illegally recorded Bout on the day of his arrest.
Bout was arrested in March 2008 after having been lured to Thailand in an elaborate sting operation by U.S. agents. He is suspected of having provided the weapons that fueled civil wars in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The Russian government lobbied heavily against the extradition of the former Soviet air force officer, who insists that he ran a legitimate air transport business. Russia denounced the action as illegal when he was finally deported two weeks ago after more than two years of legal maneuverings.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.