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

Blood from Stones

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Bad News for Viktor Bout
In an interesting development, the European Union has issued an aviation "black list" of 92 companies-including several linked to Viktor Bout-banning them from operating in EU territory. The BBC reports that the measures are taken for safety reasons. "The European Union now has a coherent approach to banning airlines," said Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission for transport. "This blacklist will keep dubious airlines out of Europe. It will also make sure that all airlines operating in Europe's sky meet the highest safety standards."

The list of companies includes all airlines operating from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea and Swaziland, bastions of allowing criminals and terrorists to use their national registries. It is not clear how many of these companies actually flew into the EU to begin with, but the list is a first step in helping to clean up the notoriously lax international aviation system.

Among the companies are several that have been flagged by the U.N. or government investigators as belonging to Bout's empire, which seems to have moved much of its registrations out of Africa and into the former Soviet republics. Those banned include Reem Air and Phoenix Aviation of Kyrghizstan, GST Aero Air of Kazakhstan, along with several suspected Bout companies in Sierra Leone. International aviation officials have long talked of going after Bout's planes not as a criminal procedure matter, but on safety grounds. This appears to be the first step in a campaign against Bout and other operators that facilitate the movement of weapons on behalf of non-state armed actors, including radical Islamic groups.

Bout, however, continues to fly for the U.S. Pentagon into Iraq, according to sources on the ground in Iraq and a close Bout associate. This seems to insure that he will not face financial difficulties any time soon, despite a U.S Treasury Deparment order making it illegal to do business with Bout or any of his associated companies. And despite Bout's documented ties to the Taliban and other radical Islamic groups.

His alleged U.S. partner, Richard Chichakli, has recently been seen in Moscow, where both Viktor and his brother Sergei hang out. Bout is unlikely to forgo his Russian protection and U.S. contracts any time soon.
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