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Last Updated: Friday, 7 March 2008, 13:36 GMT
Arms suspect faces charges in US
Viktor Bout is arrested by Thai police (6 March 2008)
Mr Bout said nothing as he was shown to reporters by Thai police

The United States says it is seeking the extradition of a suspected top international arms smuggler from Thailand, where he has been arrested.

Viktor Bout, a 41-year-old Russian, was detained in a luxury hotel in Bangkok after a months-long sting operation.

He had allegedly been trying to secure a major weapons deal with US agents posing as Colombian Farc rebels.

Mr Bout has gained a reputation of mythic proportions for his alleged role in the illegal global arms trade.

He was dubbed the "merchant of death" for allegedly supplying warring parties in Angola and Sierra Leone, and is believed to have inspired Nicolas Cage's character in the 2005 film Lord of War.

The US placed sanctions on Mr Bout in 2006, seizing his fleet of cargo planes and freezing many of his assets, but thus far he has never faced prosecution.

Thai authorities earlier said they would seek to prosecute Mr Bout before he was extradited elsewhere.

Missiles

US justice department spokesman Dean Boyd told the BBC that Washington would now proceed with an extradition request on charges that Mr Bout was attempting to supply weapons to a group designated as terrorist by the US.

An associate of Mr Bout who faces related charges, Andrew Smulian, is reportedly still being sought.

According to the charges, the two men were attempting to sell the Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) weapons including surface-to-air missiles and armour-piercing rocket launchers.

Reports suggest agents from the US drug enforcement agency posed as Farc members while negotiating with Mr Bout from November 2007 until last month.

Mr Bout was briefly shown to reporters by Thai police following his arrest, but reportedly said nothing.

UN embargoes

Mr Bout, 41, is said to have graduated from Moscow's military institute in the early 1990s and was a major in the Soviet KGB.

According to a 2007 book about him - entitled Merchant of Death - Money, Guns, Planes and the Man Who Makes War Possible - he set up a network of companies using redundant Soviet military planes.

A 2005 report by the human rights group, Amnesty International, said Mr Bout was "the most prominent foreign businessman" selling arms to UN-embargoed nations from countries such as Bulgaria, Slovakia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

He has also been accused of supplying weapons to supporters of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Taleban in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda during the 1990s.



SEE ALSO
Profile: Viktor Bout
06 Mar 08 |  Europe
Arms traders 'dodging embargoes'
02 Oct 06 |  Special Reports
Key figures on UN list
21 Oct 02 |  Africa

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