It turns out that Russian businessman and former Russian Army officer Victor Bout freed by a Thai lower court in August 2009, after being caught up in a US sting operation, was declared guilty a year later in a Thai court of appeals, and whisked via extradition to the US. The reversal means he could face charges of smuggling arms and supporting terrorists, which could mean life in prison.
In a Russia Today article, Thailand suffers Bout of insanity, RT mentions that “Bout was arrested in Bangkok in March 2008, following a sting operation allegedly organized by US law enforcement-agencies. The agents, posing as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), told Bout they were looking to buy weapons.” Whether or not he was asked to ship rather than sell weapons may be another question.
Subsequently, he was placed under arrest by request of US authorities. Yet, Russian insiders, which include intelligence and police experts, claim that the real intention of Bout’s quick extradition to the US has more to do with his “extensive” knowledge of the operations of the Russian military and intelligence. In fact, Russian sources nix the notion that Bout was in any position to gather intelligence.
Bout holds fast to the opinion that he was “set up.” Fortunately, world- renowned author Daniel Estulin agrees. In this linked YouTube, he describes Bout as “just a pawn, endgame – to attack Russia.” Estulin believes Bout was always a mere transporter of goods, which included non-military goods and conceivably some arms, which is not a crime. He feels Bout’s lawyer mishandled the case and set him up for this extradition. Listen to this five-minute interview for the full flavor of Estulin’s comments.
Also, on August 10, 2009, as RT reports, “it appeared that Viktor Bout would win back his freedom when a Thai court decided that the case against him was ‘political’ not ‘criminal,’ adding that Thailand does not consider FARC to be a terrorist organization.”
The first judge in Bout’s case said, “The US charges are not applicable under Thai law. This is a political case. The FARC is fighting for a political cause and is not a criminal gang. Thailand does not recognize the FARC as a terrorist group.” But the US was not to be put off, as Estulin mentions. There was a sense of fait accomplis to it.
That is, both the Obama administration and several members of Congress lobbied Thailand “to send Mr. Bout . . . to the US to face charges for allegedly using his air-transport business to supply weapons to conflict Zones,” which was reported by the Wall Street Journal on August 21, 2010. The article added that “Washington . . . summoned Thailand’s ambassador to the US to inform him of US concerns that Mr. Bout could be freed,” not declared innocent as he was originally.
It was also revealed that California Representative Ed Royce was part of a group of American lawmakers who had sent a letter to the Thai government, warning that US/Thai relations could suffer if Viktor Bout were freed.
Also, at the same time The Thai Appeals Court was meeting, the US heaped more charges against Russian citizen Bout, adding wire fraud and money laundering to the list. This last act almost backfired, since the new charges delayed the Thai court, and threatened to push “deliberations beyond the three-month deadline.”
The US Department of Justice jumped in with a statement that could be construed as a serious conflict of interest, writing that “The United States has apprised Thai Authorities of the new charges against Bout . . . and will continue to work closely with them on this matter.” Wasn’t it clear enough that the Thai court was owed its due process of law?
Most likely not; as Bout’s wife claimed, “There was huge pressure from the American side [which] . . . openly stated to the whole world . . . that they will put pressure on the Thai justice system in order to extradite my husband to the US.”
Bout said, “Some pressure was applied in transit.” They tried to ‘persuade’ him to admit to things he did not do, promising certain advantages in return. He rejected these efforts, perhaps referring to a potential deal. Beyond that, Bout’s clothes, money and toiletries were taken from him by Thai authorities and he was given dirty clothes for the trip, the Russians reported. They said “they would insure Bout was provided with basic warm clothes and personal hygiene items.”
Say goodbye to a fair trial
Beyond legal means, the US called in Hollywood to present an image of Bout as one of the world’s major arms dealers. He became the inspiration for the Hollywood film Lord of War, starring Nicholas Cage. Not a pretty picture, even with Cage.
Also, a book was banged out by Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun called Merchant of Death, unfairly accusing Bout of sitting “atop an immense and complex empire: a relentless international war machine able to deliver anything from AK-47s and missile launders to artillery and attack helicopters . . .” sort of like Blackwater, the new and improved Haliburton Indy war machine.
So, after getting slimed by the media, how does Bout get a fair trial in the US? Or is that a foolish question? Fair is not the point. As Daniel Estulin said, “You have to be a Houdini, a magician multiplied by factor of ten million to actually have a fair trial, a fair shake. . . . It’s not about the truth,” he added, “It’s about a guy, a patsy, to go to prison so America could feel safe and feel good about themselves, about being the beacon of truth and hope. And that’s what it’s all about.” Estulin is now working on a book about the Bout ‘conspiracy.’
Curiously, in a crudely translated Spanish-to-English/Google article, Viktor Bout’s extradition to the United States incurs the wrath of Russia , we see that wrath of Russia diminish significantly in a Reuters article from the Moscow Times, Bout Has No Secrets to Share. It marks a falling off in ‘Russia’s wrath.’ Foreign policy aide, Sergei Prikhodko on a visit to President Dmitry Medvedev in Baku, Azerbaijan, declared that “We have always said and will say that narcotics dealers, human traffickers and arms traders are all the same. These people deserve unconditional condemnation.” And does this include “transporters of arms?” Get out the dictionaries guys. A man’s life in prison is at stake.
Equally troubling, is how the US treats alleged “terrorists” and those said to be aiding and abetting them. The prospect of Bout forced to go in front of a closed-door US military tribunal is more than daunting for alleged arms dealer Victor Bout.
Worst case scenario, the truth will be morphed into Lord of War II and/or Merchant of Death: Life in Maximum Security, both potential blockbusters, side by side with Harry Potter. Bout is due in Manhattan federal court for a January 20 hearing.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer, life-long resident of New York City. His book State Of Shock – Poems from 9/11 on is available at www.jerrymazza.com, Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on American and world politics as an Associate Editor of Online Journal.