Thai Court Reconsiders Bout’s Extradition

August 10, 2011

The Thai court in Bangkok has started the reconsideration of the decision on extradition of Russian businessman Viktor Bout to the US. Bout’s lawyer filed the relevant demand back in 2010.

Bout was arrested in Thailand in 2008 following the request from the US authorities.

In 2010 he was extradited to New York. His lawyers claim this was done with the violation of the local legislation.

The US accuses Bout of illegal weapon trade but he denied the accusations. The jury court on Bout’s case was slated on October 11.

This article was published by The Voice of Russia on August 10, 2011. Thanks to @DOBROYEUTRO for sending the article to us.

To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Thai Court Rules on Bout; DELAYS U.S. Extradition

October 4, 2010

A Thai court rejected a prosecutor’s request to drop fresh charges against accused Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, potentially complicating U.S. efforts to have him extradited to face terrorism charges.

By law, prosecutors can’t drop the charges because Bout objected to their withdrawal, the Criminal Court said in a statement today. Prosecutors sought Bout’s extradition on six new charges prior to an August 20 ruling by an appeals court that he could be sent back to the U.S., where a grand jury indicted him on four charges that he plotted to kill Americans.

The court plans to rule tomorrow at 2 p.m. on whether Bout can be extradited to the U.S. on the new charges, according to a statement. Bout plans to file more cases to the Criminal Court to further stall his extradition, lawyer Lak Nittiwattanawichan told reporters.

The strategy of filing more cases, and in effect, bringing further charges against himself, is a legal tactic by Bout to delay extradition to the U.S., and at the same time, figure out a way to be freed.

Bout’s case has fueled a diplomatic dispute between the U.S. and Russia, with each country pressuring Thailand to follow its version of events. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the August 20 ruling to extradite Bout “political” and summoned Thailand’s ambassador.

The U.S. says the ex-Soviet air force officer ran an air cargo network that shipped weapons to conflict zones from Afghanistan to Rwanda. Bout has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, saying he was framed by U.S. undercover agents who posed as Colombian rebels during his arrest in Bangkok two years ago.

Bout’s extradition is ultimately going to come down to Thailand’s political decision to acquiesce to U.S. or Russian authorities.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Update: Suspected Russian Arms Dealer’s Extradition Delayed Until October

September 6, 2010

A suspected Russian arms dealer’s extradition to the United States will be delayed at least until Oct. 4 to allow a Thai court to review new charges filed as a precaution by Washington, a judge said Friday.

The announcement by the Bangkok Criminal Court is the latest blow to Washington, which had expected Viktor Bout’s rapid extradition after a Thai appeals court gave its approval on Aug. 20.

Bout, 43, is reputed to be one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers.

His high-profile arrest in a 2008 U.S.-led sting operation in Bangkok ended a decade-long chase for the Russian, who has never been prosecuted despite being the subject of U.N. sanctions, a Belgian money-laundering indictment and a travel ban.

After last month’s ruling, the U.S. quickly flew a plane to Bangkok to pick up Bout. The move was publicized in Thailand as the latest evidence of heavy U.S. pressure in a case that has turned into a diplomatic tug-of-war between Washington and Moscow.

Experts say Bout, a former Soviet air force officer, has knowledge of Russia’s military and intelligence operations and Moscow does not want him to go on trial in the United States.

Bout has been indicted in the U.S. on four terrorism-related charges and faces possible life in prison. The U.S. indictment alleges Bout agreed to sell weapons to U.S. agents posing as arms buyers for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which Washington classifies as a terrorist organization. Bout denies the accusations.

The Bangkok Criminal Court in August 2009 rejected an initial U.S. extradition request in a ruling that stunned Washington. The U.S. responded by requesting an appeal but also filed new charges against Bout to keep him detained in case the lower court’s ruling was upheld.

When the appeals court reversed the ruling last month, the U.S. moved to drop the second charges. However, under Thai law, a defendant has the right to object to charges against him being dropped, Criminal Court Judge Krerkrit Ittarat said. That means Bout could object to dropping the charges as a way to stall his extradition, a stance that his lawyer has said he will take.

The court said it previously set a date of October 4 for Bout to hear the new charges and will stick to that schedule.

The Department of Justice does not comment on pending extradition cases, but is probably anxiously awaiting the outcome of the October hearing.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Thai Court Rules: Viktor Bout to be Extradited to U.S.

August 20, 2010

A Thai court on Friday ordered the extradition to the United States of Viktor Bout, a Russian businessman suspected of running a large-scale arms trafficking organization that provided weapons to governments, rebels and insurgents across the globe.

Russia, which had been seeking to prevent Bout from being placed in the American legal system, reacted angrily to the ruling.

Prosecutors in the United States say Bout, 43, commanded a fleet of aircraft to send weapons to rebel groups and warring countries around the world. He was arrested in Bangkok in a sting operation two years ago.

Bout stood after the ruling was announced and embraced his wife and daughter, who wept. He said nothing to reporters in the courtroom as he was being led out in leg irons and an orange prison uniform. The court ordered his extradition within three months.

Bout’s lawyers had argued that the extradition request was part of a pattern of the United States reaching beyond its borders to punish its enemies. Chamroen Panompakakorn, Bout’s principal lawyer, alluded to the rendition of suspected terrorists by the American government and argued that the overall credibility of the United States government had been tarnished after the failed search for weapons of mass destruction Iraq.

A panel of judges in August 2009 sided with the defense and decided that Bout’s guilt could not be determined in a Thailand court. The court on Friday did not contradict this but said there was enough evidence to extradite Bout to the United States.

Bout’s notoriety helped spawn the 2005 film, “Lord of War,” and his arms dealings are detailed in “Merchant of Death,” a book by two American journalists who describe Bout’s dealings as falling into a “legal gray area that global jurisprudence has simply failed to proscribe.”

Bout has allegedly delivered weapons into Africa and Afghanistan, among other places, but has also supposedly flown missions for the Pentagon in Iraq and the United Nations. Sometimes Bout was hired to fly in arms to a particular group, the authors note, and then was paid by the United Nations to deliver humanitarian aid to the same area.

Bout was arrested in March 2008 at a hotel in Bangkok after agreeing to sell millions of dollars worth of arms to undercover agents for the United States Drug Enforcement Administration posing as rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

It remains unclear why Bout traveled to Thailand. Thai intelligence officials say that Russia was in talks with Thailand to provide a small but sophisticated diesel-powered submarine in honor of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his more than six decades on the throne.

The case has put Thailand in the awkward position of referee between Russia and the United States. Thailand is one of the United States’ closest allies in Asia, but its relations with Russia have also warmed considerably since the end of the Cold War. Thai beach resorts have become a major draw for Russian tourists looking to escape the long winters.

The case has offered a window into the scale of arms trafficking. During the meeting in March 2008, Bout allegedly told the undercover American agents that he could deliver 700 to 800 surface-to-air missiles, 5,000 AK-47 assault weapons, millions of rounds of ammunition, land mines, C-4 explosives and remotely piloted aerial vehicles, according to the United States indictment.

United States prosecutors filed fresh charges against Bout in February alleging that he and his former business associate, Richard Chichakli, sought to purchase two aircraft from American companies in 2007 using front companies. The sale was in violation of United States and United Nations sanctions and was blocked.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Russian Arms Dealer May Avoid U.S. Extradition; Thai Appeals Court to Rule on Friday

August 19, 2010

The suspected Russian arms dealer known as “The Merchant of Death” is tired of prison life but optimistic a Thai appeals court will rule in his favor Friday and refuse to extradite him to the United States, his lawyer said.

Viktor Bout, a 43-year-old former Soviet air force officer, is reputed to be one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers. He has been linked to some of modern history’s most notorious conflicts, allegedly supplying weapons that fueled civil wars in South America, the Middle East and Africa to clients such as former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Bout’s high-profile arrest in a 2008 U.S. sting operation in Bangkok ended nearly a quarter-century of cat-and-mouse chases for the elusive Russian. It also raised Washington’s hopes for a quick handover of a man who has never been prosecuted despite being the subject of U.N. sanctions, a Belgian money-laundering indictment and a travel ban.

Instead, it spurred a diplomatic tug-of-war between Moscow and Washington that led to lengthy delays and prompted a lower court judge to seek input from the Foreign Ministry, saying he was in “a tough position” and feared ties with both countries could be at stake. The Bangkok Criminal Court ultimately rejected the U.S. extradition request in August 2009.

Experts say Bout — who gained notoriety in the 1990s for running a fleet of aging Soviet-era cargo planes to conflict-ridden hotspots in Africa — has been useful for Russia’s intelligence apparatus, and Moscow does not want him going on trial in the United States.

Bout has repeatedly denied the accusations and claims his air cargo business was legitimate.

The 2005 Nicolas Cage film, “The Lord of War,” is widely believed to be modeled after Bout’s life.

The Russian’s own nickname was coined in 2000 when a high-ranking minister at Britain’s Foreign Office dubbed him “The Merchant of Death” for his alleged arms role in Africa.

Bout’s March 2008 arrest at a Bangkok luxury hotel came after an elaborate operation led by U.S. agents posing as arms buyers for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which Washington classifies as a terrorist organization. The four-month investigation involved meetings in Curacao, Denmark and Romania.

After his arrest, Bout was indicted in the U.S. on charges of conspiring to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to FARC, including more than 700 surface-to-air missiles, thousands of guns, high-tech helicopters and airplanes outfitted with grenade launchers and missiles.

The lower Thai court said it rejected the U.S. extradition request because Thailand considers the FARC a political movement and not a terrorist group, and that extradition could not be granted for a political offense.

Thai prosecutors appealed the decision on Washington’s request. In February, U.S. prosecutors filed new charges in hopes of convincing reluctant Thai officials to extradite Bout despite Russia’s objections.

The new charges say Bout and his former business associate, Richard Chichakli, used a series of front companies to purchase two planes from U.S. companies in 2007, in violation of U.S. and United Nations sanctions. At the time, U.S. officials intervened to block the sale.

Russia, for its part, made great efforts to get Bout out of Thailand — and when that failed tried to make his stay more comfortable.

Both Washington and Moscow have accused the other of trying to win Bout’s release by bribing Thai officials — a common practice in a country where the judiciary is notoriously corrupt. Russia, which sold cheap oil to Thailand after Bout’s arrest and has talked of selling it fighter jets, summoned the Thai ambassador in Moscow at one point and the country’s foreign ministry demanded the case be investigated objectively and impartially.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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