Viktor Bout’s Former Business Partner Gets Five Years
A former associate of convicted arms smuggler Victor Bout and the chief witness in the trial against him was sentenced today to five years in prison. Among the charges that South African national Andrew Smulian pleaded guilty to in the Federal District Court in Manhattan were conspiracy to kill American citizens, aiding terrorists, and weapons smuggling.
He has already served more than four years in prison, which will count towards his sentence.
Smulian was instrumental in Bout’s conviction, as it was his idea to undertake the business transaction that eventually got Bout arrested, and then was the primary witness against him.
Because of the nature of his crimes, Smulian would have faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years. In exchange for providing crucial evidence to convict Bout, he was given a plea bargain with a lenient sentence.
Smulian unwittingly led US authorities to Bout, when he put him in touch with Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents posing as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) seeking weapons to fight Americans. According to his own testimony, Smulian began working with Bout in the late 1990s.
The DEA approached Smulian through an acquaintance already cooperating with the US government. He asked Smulian if he would approach Bout and tell him that the FARC was interested in buying weapons. Throughout his trial, Bout claimed that he only wanted to sell the FARC two military planes.
Bout and Smulian were arrested together in 2008 in Bangkok, while meeting with undercover agents posing as members of the paramilitary group, to negotiate sale of weapons worth millions of dollars. An audio recording made during the meeting was used against Bout. Upon his arrest, Smulian decided to cooperate with the DEA.
Bout’s attorney Albert Dayan dismissed Smulian as a liar who regarded the FARC weapons deal as “his retirement plan”.
Smulian’s lawyer Mary Mulligan described her client as someone who would not have gotten involved with terrorism if he weren’t dragged into the sting. “He was simply…financially vulnerable, out-of-work.” She described her client as “deeply remorseful and humble.”
“I categorically accept full responsibility for my conduct,” Smulian told the presiding judge Shira Scheindlin.
Smulian’s plea agreement includes an option for him and his family to apply for a witness protection program.