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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Viktor Bout and Chichakli - New indictrments

A New Indictment for Viktor Bout and his American Partner
By Douglas Farah

The U.S. Justice Department today handed down a new indictment against Viktor Bout and his Syrian-American partner Richard Chichakli, alleging the Merchant of Death with laundering money and attempting to buy two aircraft in the Unites States through a series of front companies.

The indictment may add to Bout's legal woes, and certainly is a blow to Chichakli, who has been happily holed in Moscow, with occasional trips to Damascus while using his website to mock the U.S. government, along with yours truly and others. The indictment and Interpol alert will likely keep him holed up in Moscow, at least for a while.

Chichakli, who prided himself on his ability to create fetching fruit platters, fled the United States when his assets were frozen by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets control. He used Lufthansa frequent flier miles to purchase his ticket, as he had no money available, and then proceeded on to Syria, before joining Viktor in Moscow.

Bout, of course, is still in a Thai jail, awaiting an appeals court decision on whether he can be extradited to the United States to stand trial for attempts to knowingly sell surface to air missiles and other lethal equipment to undercover agents posing as FARC operatives. Last year a lower court ruled that Bout could not be extradited, and the appeals court ruling will be final.

The charges may be used to try give the Thai court more reason to authorized Bout's extradition to the United States. It will also certainly make Chichakli, who helped Bout set up his operations in the UAE in the 1990s while acting as his accountant, a less mobile figure.

Bout's attempt to buy the aircraft show how mobile his network - which supplied the Taliban in Afghanistan, the FARC in Colombia and other terrorist groups - had become. The indictment alleges Bout and Chichakli wired some $1.7 million through the United States on behalf of a front company named Samar Airlines, to purchase two Boeing aircraft in the United States. My full blog is here.

The Rest @ Counter Terrosim Blog by Doug Farah

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