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Arms Dealer Viktor Bout Gets 25 Years

Farrah Zughni

International arms dealer Viktor Bout was sentenced last month to 25 years in prison for crimes related to arms trafficking.

The sentence, handed down April 5 by Judge Shira Scheindlin, was the mandatory minimum; prosecutors had asked for a life sentence.

Last November, a federal jury in New York City found Bout, a Russian national, guilty of conspiring to kill U.S. nationals; kill U.S. officials; acquire, transfer, and use anti-aircraft missiles; and provide material support to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). (See ACT, December 2011.)

Bout was arrested in Bangkok in March 2008 by Thai authorities working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Bout agreed to sell millions of dollars’ worth of weapons, including surface-to-air missile systems and armor-piercing rocket launchers, to undercover agents he believed to be FARC arms buyers, according to a March 2008 press release from the Department of Justice.

“Viktor Bout has been international arms trafficking enemy number one for many years…. Today’s sentence is a fitting coda for this career arms trafficker of the most dangerous order,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara said in an April 5 press release.

At an April 11 press conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he had discussed Bout’s case with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during a meeting in Washington earlier that day. “Without going into further detail, we are definitely concerned with the fate of our people, no matter what they are accused of. We want them to be in the Russian Federation,” Lavrov said.

Since Bout’s arrest, Russian officials repeatedly have protested U.S. handling of the case and requested that Bout be turned over to their custody.