Merchant of Death
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Press Releases

The UN Finally Takes Action Against Bout Associates and Companies
Well, after months of delay (mostly on the U.S. part in getting the information to them), the United Nations finally designated two business associates of Viktor Bout and 30 of his companies, obligating member states to freeze all assests related to the people and firms and banning their international travel. The full list can be found here.

OFAC had designated the same people (Richard Chichakli, a U.S. citizen; and Valeriy Naydo, Ukranian), along with two others, and the same companies, in April. That made it illegal for any U.S. company to do any business with any company related to Bout--a legal barrier that has been routinely ignored by some in the Pentagon and some of their civilian contractors.

However, getting the exact same information to the UN so the designations would have a global effect took an inordinate amount of time because the whole thing got bogged down in the inter-agency review swamp for months--months used by Bout to create new companies, buy new aircraft and continue operating. While the Treasury Department gave the list to the State Department immediately after taking its own action, State was unable to move the papers along for almost six months. The UN acted with relative swiftness in getting the list issued once they got the request from the United States. Only two people, Sergei Bout (Viktor's brother and partner, and another Russian citizen) were kept off the global list due to a "technical hold" by the Russians, pending more information from the United States.

While the freezing measures, both in the United States and the UN, were based on Bout's support for Charles Taylor in Liberia, he is also accused by the U.S. government of making $50 million off of arms sales to the Taliban, weapons that were later used against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. In addition, Bout and his web of companies, according to U.S., European and U.N. investigators, has supplied an array of of other desiganted terrorist groups with weapons, including the FARC in Colombia.

The strength of the UN action is that it provides a legal basis for other nations to act against Bout and his companies. The UAE, for example, has not taken action against several Bout companies as requested by the United States because the companies were only designated by the Treasury Department. That is no longer the case. It remains to be seen if there is the political will to really take action against some of the designated companies like Irbiss that continue to fly openly out of Sarjah airport.

The weakness, of course, is that many of the designated companies are already shelved, and new companies have been established. The speed with which Bout is able to register and re-register aircraft under different company names is stunning. It is difficult to keep up with. The individuals may be harder to replace. Chichakli left the United States after his designation and continues to threaten to sue the U.S. Treasury and everyone else. Now he can add the UN to the list. However, truely blocking the assests and travel of designated individuals is something that has been far beyond the ken of most countries, even for those accused of terrorist activities. While the UN action is a small step in the right direction, it seems unlikely to really hurt Bout, Chichakli and the rest of those intent on staying in business and able to move through the cracks of the global enforcement system.
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