Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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More Small Steps to put Viktor Bout out of Business
Today the U.S. Treasury Department took another step to crimp the style of Russian weapons trafficker Viktor Bout.

The OFAC freezing action of seven companies and three individuals in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) followed yesterday's similar action by the United Nations Security Council and is aimed in part and restricting Bout's ability to continue to illicitly move weapons to African war zones.

The OFAC statement said that "Three of the designated firms have been found to be owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, Viktor Bout, an international arms dealer and war profiteer... This designation continues OFAC's efforts to disrupt the involvement of the Bout network, one of the largest illicit arms-trafficking networks in the world, in conflicts in the DRC and elsewhere."

OFAC has previously publicly noted Bout's role in supplying the Taliban and his support of Liberian warlord Charles Taylor. A small plug-I, along with my co-author Steve Braun, have a book on Bout and the weapons trade coming out in August, titled "Merchant of Death."

The OFAC notice further notes that "Two of the companies designated today, Compagnie Aerienne des Grands Lacs and Great Lakes Business Company, have been identified by the UN and other observers as being suppliers of weapons and ammunition to warring factions in the DRC. Another firm, Cargo Freight International, is included in this designation for its role as a holding company for some of Bout's assets in the region."

This is the second round of designations of Bout and his companies in the DRC. He is also under sanction for his role in Liberia and has an Interpol Red Notice out for his arrest. Of course, that has done little to slow down his illicit runs, and he lives unmolested by the Putin regime in Moscow. But each layer of sanctions is an incremental step toward raising the cost of his doing business. And it just might save a few lives.

This work is a tribute to a small but dedicated group in OFAC and the UN, who, despite layers of official indifference and bureaucratic inertia, manage to keep to ball rolling.

Along with Bout's companies, OFAC and the UN have designated significant gold traffickers who supported the wars in the DRC, as well as Straton Musoni, the First Vice-President of the Forces Democratiques pour la Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR). The FDLR is a "largely made up of Hutu extremists who participated in the 1993 Rwandan genocide. Musoni is being named because of his role as a leader of the FDLR, which has impeded the disarmament, repatriation, or resettlement of combatants in the DRC," the designation said.

Small steps, but not futile nor useless.

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