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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Russia Trying To Buy Merchant of Death's Freedom With Weapons Sales

Russia has been doing everything within its power to free Vkitor Bout.
TBDA suggests that arms are, or continue to be shipped out of Romaina, Moldova and bulgaria toward Africa, possibly through Sudan, many using Viktor Bout's airline connections.

I am suggesting that the GRU wants their primary arms transporter, with his African connections, out of Jail to go to work.

Keep this in mind as you read this 19/10/09 Story from the US Neewsweek.

-Shimron Issachar



U.S. intelligence officials are increasingly nervous that notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout may soon be released from a Thai jail due in part to a pressure campaign by the Russian government aimed at blocking his extradition to the U.S. to stand trial on weapons trafficking charges.

The 42 year old Bout, a former Soviet military officer, has long been regarded by many veteran U.S. counter-terrrorism and intelligence officials as the ultimate "transnational criminal" – a character straight out of a James Bond novel who eluded capture for years as he allegedly supplied weapons of war to the Taliban, Liberian dictator Charles Taylor and a host of other rogue regimes, drug traffickers and criminal organizations.

In what was once viewed as a major coup for U.S. law enforcement, Bout was nabbed by Thai police in a Bangkok luxury hotel last year as part of an elaborate Drug Enforcement Administration sting operation. Bout has been indicted in a New York federal court for conspiring to supply the Colombian FARC, a State Department designated terrorist organization, with 700 surface to air missiles, thousands of guns, and airplanes outfitted with grenade launchers and missiles. Under U.S. law supplying weapons to any such organization can be prosecuted in American courts.

But Justice and State Department officials have been jolted by recent setbacks to their efforts to have Bout (often dubbed "the merchant of death") extradited.

"We may be having our worst nightmare realized -- one of the world's worst arms dealers is going to be let go," said Juan Zarate, the former White House counter-terrorism adviser under President Bush who had encouraged the DEA to launch the Bout sting and has continued to follow the case closely.

The most stunning defeat came in August when a Thai criminal court rejected the U.S. government's extradition request -- on what U.S. officials viewed as the ludicrous grounds that the FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, was a legitimate political organization and not a bona fide terrorist group. The ruling prompted the burly mustachioed Bout to stand up in court and flash a victory sign. Bout, for his part, has maintained his innocence and his associates maintain a website, that calls the charges against him "ficticious" and "propaganda."
The U.S., working with the Thai attorney general's office, immediately appealed. But late last month, officials in Washington were jolted anew when they got an alarming cable from the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok. The cable reported that the judges on the Thai appellate court had secretly met with the arms dealer, his lawyer and translator on Sept. 15 - without anybody from the U.S. Embassy or the Thai attorney general's office being notified of the session, according to two U.S. law enforcement officials familiar with the cable who discussed its contents with Newsweek but declined to be identified talking about sensitive matters. An official at the Thai embassy in Washington emailed Newsweek a statement saying, "The Court is independent from the government. The government cannot issue a statement or intervene in the process in anyway which affect the outcome of the Court's decision."

(What has been especially infuriating, to U.S. officials, are repeated intelligence reports described to Newsweek by the officials, that the Russian government has been pulling out all stops to prevent Bout's extradition-including offering sweetheart oil deals --- apparently because of fears that if sent to the United States and confronted with the prospect of decades in federal prison, he may tell what he knows about the complicity of high level members of the Russian military and security services in his activities.

U.S. officials say it is no accident that the Russian Duma, controlled by former Prime Minister Vladimer Putin's party, passed a resolution last year officially denouncing Bout's "illegal prosecution" and that last February, Thailand made its first purchase ever of Russian helicopters, buying six mi-17 choppers for $9 million a piece.

"It's amazing the lengths to which [the Russians] are going," said one U.S. law enforcement official who is directly following the case. "The guy knows a lot. His connections go all the way to the top." (Officials at the Russian Embassy in Washington last week did not respond to a request for comment.)

All this has recently gotten the attention of top Obama administration officials. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder have both raised the issue with Thai government officials. And last week Deputy Attorney General David Ogden made the Bout case the prime topic of a meeting with Thailand's Minister of Justice in Bangkok, telling him and other Thai officials that Bout's extradition is "a matter of great importance to the United States."
The question for U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials, however, is whether the high level attention from Washington may be too little-- and too late.

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The Rest @ Newsweek



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