'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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: Service and Installation Engineer

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: SEO / Outreach Executive

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a global marketin...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Estimator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Negotiator - OTE £24,000

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An enthusiastic individual is r...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?