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

Blood from Stones

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Viktor Bout Arrested in Thailand in a Perfect Storm
Viktor Bout, the subject of my book with Steve Braun has been arrested in Thailand on charges of supplying weapons to the FARC in Colombia.

It is a stunning blow to the world's "Merchant of Death," who has been responsible for fanning wars across Africa, as well as aiding and abetting the Taliban, and thus, indirectly, al Qaeda.

Of course, this may finally stop the U.S. from carrying on dealing with him, despite his being the subject of an Interpol red notice, an Executive Order signed by President Bush, and numerous Treasury Department sanctions. Despite all that, Bout aircraft flew hundreds of flights, as a sub-contractor, for the U.S military and its principal contractors such as KBR, Fedex and others.

The arrest is the result of a DEA sting operation focused on targeting suppliers of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia),
ccording to ABC News.

The FARC is the hemisphere's oldest insurgency, and one that now sustains itself through drug trafficking activities and kidnappings. The FARC has been labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. and European Union.

Bout was arrested in a five-star hotel in Bangkok, according to Gen. Pongpat Chayapan, head of the nation's Crime Suppression Bureau. He had been under surveillance for several months.

Over the past 15 years, Bout worked with nearly every despot in Africa, and many further afield, as well as his Afghanistan ventures with the Taliban. Charles Taylor, Mobutu, Savimbi, Kabila, Bemba, Foday Sankoh-the list of serial human rights abusers who were his clients, is long and bloody.

This is not Bout's first contact with the FARC. As we document in our book (thanks to the work of Kathi Austin and others), Bout aircraft flew a series of flights in 1998-1999 that originated in Jordan. Most of the weapons were destined for the government of Peru, but about 10,000 AK-47s were parachuted from the aircraft to FARC troops near the Peruvian border.

So, the question now is, can the man who has survived by his wits and his high level protection from the Russian intelligence establishment, actually be held?

Russian officials are already making noises about request his extradition to Russia, which would be the end of any trial.

RSI Novosti is reporting:

Moscow may request the extradition of Russian businessman Viktor Bout, arrested in Thailand at the request of U.S. authorities on charges of illegal arms trading, a Russian law enforcement source said on Thursday.

"At this time, Russia is awaiting investigation materials from Thailand...After that, a decision to request extradition may be taken," the source said.

As I have written before, much of what Bout did, under the current international law, is not illegal, although it is morally repugnant. It is heartening that the new charges involve specific charges of efforts to help the FARC, which is likely to be something that is far less nebulous to prove than breaking U.N. arms embargoes.

Thai officials say he could be brought back to the United States to stand trial. That would be a sight indeed.

Now The Fun Begins With Russia Over Bout Arrest
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