Viktor Bout is an arms dealer who sold arms to terrorists and criminals. He has been called the “Merchant of Death”, but he’s now a free man. But who is he anyway?
55 years ago, the world’s most successful arms dealer was born to an ethnic Ukrainian from Soviet Tajikistan, a part of Turkic Central Asia. But, also known as “Sanctions Buster”, he started his career in arms trading during the turbulent years following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The former superpower, which was heavily militarized, left behind everything, from tanks and jets to nuclear missiles and bombers to newly independent countries like Ukraine or Kazakhstan. Many shady deals were made with cash-strapped countries and high-ranking military officials.
Bout was reportedly the one who smuggled out more than $32 million in weapons from Ukraine in the ’90s. Bill Clinton, then-President, was negotiating the Budapest Memorandum with the Russian Federation and several ex-Soviet Republics, including Ukraine, during the same period. In exchange for security guarantees that proved to be worthless, Kyiv agreed not to use any Soviet nuclear weapons or delivery systems.
The Budapest Memorandum may have stopped Bout from getting any nuclear warheads. But that’s about it. This guy will sell to anyone. A New York federal court convicted him in 2012 for trying to sell antiaircraft missiles for passenger jets.
Bout was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment, and Moscow has been trying since to free him.
The ministry released a statement saying that the Russian Federation had been in negotiations with the United States for the release of V. A. Bout. “Washington has repeatedly refused to engage in dialogue about the inclusion of the Russian citizen in the exchange program. The Russian Federation still worked tirelessly to save our compatriots.
Two answers are available to answer the question of why the Kremlin would want to free a terror sponsor from prison. First, Bout almost certainly paid kickbacks to the Russian Federation criminal clique. According to several European governments, the second is that Russia itself is a terrorist state.
But back to Bout.
He was involved in the trafficking of weapons to several African dictators and thugs during the 2000s, including Liberian warlord Charles Taylor. Sometimes, it is believed that he was working for Russian intelligence.
After a sting operation involving a paid DEA agent, Thai authorities took him into custody. He believed Bout was part of a conspiracy to supply Russian armor-piercing and antiaircraft rocket launchers to FARC (the Communist rebel group in Colombia). In 2010, he was extradited to America and charged with conspiring “to provide material support or resource to a designated foreign terrorist organization”, conspiring against killing Americans, conspiring the murder of American officers and employees, and conspiring in order to acquire an anti-aircraft weapon.
Other charges include wire fraud and money laundering.
Preet Bharara, a successful American prosecutor, stated that he was brought to justice for “amazingly providing a number of military-grade arms to an avowed terrorist group committed to killing Americans”.
This is President Joe Biden, who was released from prison to exchange for a player in basketball who was stupid enough to take her own stash of drugs into Russia.
We traded a Russian Arms dealer Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death” to Russia for the release Brittney Griner…
1) I never want to hear the words “Gun Control” come from Biden’s mouth again after this one
2) US Marine Paul Whelan is still imprisoned in Russia.
— Shawn Farash ❌🐻 (@Shawn_Farash) December 8, 2022