Convicted Weapons Trafficker Viktor Bout Seeks ICC Decision on Extradition

Convicted Russian arms trafficker Victor Bout Thursday reiterated his hopes for extradition to his native Russia -- a goal shared by the Russian government. Russia has been a vocal proponent of Bout’s extradition since his arrest in Thailand 2008. Bout was extradited to the United States in 2010 and went on trial in October. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison by the US District Court in New York on April 5, for conspiracy to kill American citizens and conspiracy to aid a terrorist organization.

During a televised press conference organized on Thursday by the Russian Legal Information Agency (RAPSI), Bout said he believes that "if Russia gets to the bottom of what happened” and takes a firm stance on his case, he will be able to return to Russia soon. He urged the State Duma to file a lawsuit on his behalf at an international court, against Thailand for extraditing him to the US, and against the US for the “staged trial” against him.

Despite the plentiful evidence against him, Bout has maintained that his trial was a witch hunt instigated in part by a movie, “Merchant of Death,” which allegedly depicts Bout’s life.

The Russian State Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs in a statement on Thursday expressed their disproval of the “unsubstantiated” and “politically motivated” sentence against Bout. The committee’s statement warns the jailing of Bout could lead to growing resentment towards US among the Russian public, which presents a problem for the complicated relations between the two countries. The committee strongly urged the US to send Bout home.

The Russian authorities, as well as a number of Russian media outlets, maintained that there was no evidence to convict Bout, and that “words alone” do not constitute a crime. They were referring to a recording made by US Drugs Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents posing as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and seeking to buy weapons from Bout. Bout can be heard agreeing to sell weapons to FARC, and acknowledging that these weapons would be used to kill American citizens. The US considers FARC a terrorist organization.

However, the Moscow Times noted in a Thursday article that convictions based on conspiracy to commit a crime are not unique to the United States. The Article noted cases in which Russia convicted people for conspiracy to commit crimes such as murder, embezzlement and corruption.

Bout has been suspected of arms trafficking since the 1990s, when he was most active in Africa. However, the New York Court’s judgment was based only on his statements during the DEA sting, critics say. US officials have long alleged that Bout’s trafficking activities have fueled numerous armed conflicts all over the world, where he sometimes sold weapons to opposing combatants.