Viktor Bout, 'Merchant of Death,' Sentenced to 25 Years
Feds believe Bout to be one of world's "most prolific arms dealer."
April 5, 2012 — -- The so-called "Merchant of Death," Viktor Bout was sentenced to 25 years in prison today for attempting to sell millions of dollars in weapons to Colombian terrorists who were targeting Americans.
Bout, a Russian national, was convicted in November after his 2008 extradition from Thailand, where he was caught in a sting operation led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
"Today, one of the world's most prolific arms dealers is being held accountable for his sordid past," Attorney General Eric Holder said after Bout's conviction. "Viktor Bout's arms trafficking activity and support of armed conflicts have been a source of concern around the globe for decades."
On the eve of his sentencing, an attorney for Bout reportedly sent a letter to the U.S. court protesting his prosecution and the entire court process.
"We have called the prosecution of Viktor Bout 'outrageous governmental conduct.' That does not go nearly far enough -- it's a disgrace," the letter said, according to Russia's state-owned RIA Novosti.
In a recent interview with a Russian radio station, Bout, who has maintained his innocence, said the U.S. wasn't looking for the truth in his case.
"Some American arms smugglers are even more guilty but they enjoy freedom," Bout said Wednesday, The Voice of Russia reported.
The former Soviet military officer was found guilty of conspiring to kill U.S. nationals in Colombia by selling millions of dollars worth of weapons to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Columbia, a terror group known as FARC. Court records say Bout agreed during conversations with undercover DEA informants to supply surface-to-air missiles, AK-47 rifles, anti-personnel landmines, C-4 plastic explosive, night vision goggles and unmanned drones.
In addition to the charges for which he was convicted, Bout has also been long suspected of supplying weapons to al Qaeda, the Taliban and various African warlords. He was mentioned in a 2000 United Nations report as a former air force officer "strongly suspected to be connected to Russian organized crime." The U.N. said he "supplied military equipment and other necessities to all conflict areas in Africa."
The Russian is thought to be the inspiration for Nicolas Cage's arms dealing character in the 2005 film "Lord of War."