THAILAND: US tightens noose on ‘Merchant of Death’

US prosecutors filed new charges this week in their global pursuit of the suspected Russian arms dealer, Viktor Bout, dubbed the ‘Merchant of Death’. The updated indictment charges that Bout and his former business associate, Richard Chichakli – a Syrian-born American last reported to be living in Moscow – conspired to violate United Nations sanctions […]


US prosecutors filed new charges this week in their global pursuit of the suspected Russian arms dealer, Viktor Bout, dubbed the ‘Merchant of Death’. The updated indictment charges that Bout and his former business associate, Richard Chichakli – a Syrian-born American last reported to be living in Moscow – conspired to violate United Nations sanctions aimed at stopping bloody fighting in Africa by using a series of shell companies to try to purchase two planes from US companies in 2007, in violation of US and United Nations sanctions.

The US is hoping to convince reluctant Thai officials to extradite him over objections from Russia. Bout’s case has become a diplomatic tug of war between the US and Russia since his arrest in Bangkok in 2008 after US agents posed as arms buyers for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which it classifies as a terrorist organisation.

After his arrest, Bout was indicted in the US on charges of conspiring to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to FARC, including more than 700 surfaceto- air missiles, thousands of guns, hightech helicopters and aircraft outfitted with grenade launchers and missiles.

Bout has repeatedly denied the accusations. He has been linked to some of the world’s most notorious conflicts, allegedly supplying arms to former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.