'Merchant of Death' jailed for 25 years in US

World's most notorious arms dealer sentenced for plot to sell weapons to Colombian terrorists

Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer dubbed “the Merchant of Death”, was last night sentenced to 25 years in a US federal prison after being convicted of helping a Colombian terror group that was seeking to kill Americans.

The sentence by New York District Judge Shira Scheindlin brings down the final curtain on a sinister story spanning five continents and featuring some of the nastiest conflicts of the past 20 years, from the Middle East to Afghanistan and Africa's civil wars.

Prosecutors depicted Bout, 45, as an amoral criminal who caused misery around the world. But to the end he protested his innocence, telling the judge the charges were false. "It's a lie," he shouted, saying he never intended to kill anyone. "God knows this truth." Trained in the GRU, the former Soviet military intelligence service, Bout began his career in arms trading around 1990. By the end of the decade, he was a multimillionaire, shipping weapons around the world in 30 aircraft.

By the early 2000s, however, international pressure mounted, as first the United Nations and then the US imposed sanctions against a man that prosecutors called a "transnational criminal" who was "ready, willing and able" to supply arms to terrorists and tyrants. Such was Bout's notoriety that he inspired the arms dealer played by Nicolas Cage in the 2005 film Lord of War.

In 2007 the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) launched an investigation into Bout, setting up a scheme to lure him into agreeing to sell Russian ground-to-air missiles and other weapons to agents posing as representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), whose operations were largely financed by drug trafficking. The insurgent group has long been classified by the US as a terrorist organisation, and Washington has regularly dispatched special forces and intelligence units to help Colombian police. By committing to sell weapons to the Farc, Bout could thus be charged with conspiring to kill American citizens – charges which under US law can be brought against foreign citizens in foreign countries.

In 2008, DEA agents managed to coax Bout out of Russia to Thailand, where they taped him in a Bangkok hotel room where the deal was settled and he was arrested. Despite intense pressure on the Thai authorities from Moscow, was finally extradited back to the US in 2010.

After his conviction, Bout was held first held in solitary confinement, before being released into the general population at the New York prison where he has been held before sentencing.

All along Bout has maintained he was just a businessman, who fell victim to a vendetta by the American government. Bout's lawyer, Albert Dayan, accused the US of "outrageous" conduct after his client turned down a first approach to enter into a deal with the Farc. Prosecutors said Bout's trading made him a threat to the entire world.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?