Notorious Arms Dealer Busted in Bangkok

One of the world's most notorious arms dealers was arrested today in Bangkok on allegations that he supplied Colombian rebels with arms and explosives, Thai police said.

Russian Viktor Bout was arrested in his hotel room in the capital, Bangkok, on a warrant issued by a Thai court, said Police Lt. Gen. Pongpat Chayapan, head of the Crime Suppression Bureau.

The warrant stemmed from an earlier one issued by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, he said.

Sources told ABC News that Bout was arrested during negotiations to sell weapons in a sting orchestrated by a DEA special operations unit.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman "congratulated" Thai police for the arrest.

Sources told ABC News that the DEA expects Bout to be turned over to U.S. custody and a DEA news conference is scheduled for later today.

Though Bout was nabbed on drug charges, he was infamous as one of the world's leading arms dealers. The Nicholas Cage character in the movie "Lord of War" was based on Bout.

Police Col. Petcharat Sengchai told reporters that Bout was wanted on charges of "procuring weapons and explosives for Colombian rebels" known as the Revolutionary Armed Forced of Colombia or FARC.

The leftist FARC has been fighting Colombia's government for more than four decades, funds itself largely through the cocaine trade and kidnaps for ransom and political ends.

Bout, a murky figure rarely seen in public, has also been accused of trafficking weapons to Central and West Africa since the early 1990s. U.N. reports say he set up a network of more than 50 aircraft around the world and trade experts have said the illicit diamond trade was likely one source of funds for his smuggled arms shipments.

Although Bout has been investigated by police in several countries, he has never been prosecuted for arms dealing.

U.S. authorities are most interested in Bout for his relationship with the Taliban and al Qaeda during the late 1990s and possibly even later.

He is suspected of having smuggled weapons to the Taliban and breaking the U.N. air embargo. Many U.S. officials believe his planes carried arms into Afghanistan and carried heroin out of the country.

A 2005 report by Amnesty International, a Britain-based human rights watchdog, alleged Bout was "the most prominent foreign businessman" involved in trafficking arms to U.N.-embargoed destinations from Bulgaria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and other countries.

The report also implicated Bout in transferring "very large quantities of arms" from Ukraine that were delivered to Uganda via Tanzania aboard a Greek-registered cargo ship.

In 2003, the United Nations imposed an arms embargo on the provinces of North and South Kivu and the Ituri regions of eastern Congo and also on groups that were not a part of the 2003 peace agreement for the region.

ABC's Richard Esposito and Pierre Thomas contributed to this report

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