New Charges for 'Merchant of Death' Viktor Bout's Accused Henchman

Richard Chichakli

Richard Chikachli, the alleged U.S. business associate of Russian arms trader Viktor Bout is facing fresh charges that he filed false tax returns and failed to report his ownership of foreign bank accounts.

Meanwhile, Chichakli, who is already facing money laundering charges and has been a fugitive from federal authorities since 2005, hit back at prosecutors with an angry YouTube video posted from an unknown location. Chichakli, who has a history of issuing defiant on-line statements in his battle with the U.S. government, promised many more on-line updates in the future.

Chichakli is wanted for his alleged role aiding Viktor Bout, an arms merchant who has been dubbed "The Merchant of Death" for his role in alleged arms trafficking around the world, even working for the U.S. in Iraq.

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After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Bout, a former Soviet military officer, made his fortune selling Soviet-era weaponry to Third World despots and insurgent groups. Bout allegedly used fleets of Cold War-era Soviet cargo planes to run guns for dictators, including Liberia's Charles Taylor and Zaire's Mubuto Sese Seko, as well as rebel leaders in Angola, Sierra Leone and beyond.

International authorities had tried to freeze Bout's assets after he was accused of providing weapons to Liberia's Taylor, who was fueling a bloody insurgency in neighboring Sierra Leone. Taylor is currently on trial before an international court for his alleged role in the violence. Bout's payments from Taylor allegedly included diamonds.

A UN investigation of Bout and Chichakli alleged that Chichakli served as chief financial officer for the Bout companies that ferried the weapons.

Bout was arrested in Thailand in a 2008 sting operation and has been battling his extradition to the U.S. ever since. He was initially indicted in March 2008 for conspiring to kill Americans for attempting to sell arms to the left-wing FARC insurgents in Colombia.

Chichakli, a U.S. citizen, has been on the run since April 2005, when agents from the FBI and Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control raided his home near Dallas, Texas.

The agents seized his assets and business records, which allegedly showed that Bout moved money through the U.S. through several front companies. Agents also recovered a stash of diamonds from his office, according to officials. Chichakli is believed to have fled to Syria where he had family, but later moved again because he was unable to access his bank accounts. He is now believed to be in Moscow.

Following the seizure of his assets in 2005, Chichakli established a web site defending himself. In a 2007 letter posted on the web site, Chichakli disputed his connections with Bout, asserting, "I, Richard Chichakli, hereby testify that I was not at any given time an employee of Victor Bout's companies including Aircess, Airpass, Metavia Airlines, and Central Africa Airlines in the capacity the government alleges, and I never received employment salaries or benefits from these entities."

On the web site Chichakli also addresses an open letter to the FBI: "Furthermore, should you have any questions about this case, Victor Bout, the weather in Moscow, or just want to ask how I'm doing, please feel free to call or drop me an e-mail at any time."

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