Viktor Bout, the accused international arms dealer, was “ready, willing and able” to carry out a multimillion-dollar sale of weapons including surface-to-air missiles to terrorists, a U.S. prosecutor said.
Bout, a former Soviet air force officer, is on trial in Manhattan federal court, charged with four counts of conspiracy. He was arrested in Bangkok in March 2008 in a sting operation by undercover sources who told him they were buying weapons for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. He was brought to New York for prosecution in November.
In closing arguments today, prosecutors said Bout and an associate, Andrew Smulian, who pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the U.S., agreed to sell millions of dollars worth of missiles, armor-piercing rocket launchers and AK-47 rifles to FARC, a Marxist insurgency classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union.
“Bout repeatedly said he was ready, willing and able to carry out this weapons deal,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Anjan Sahni told the jury. “This was a relationship that could have meant millions of dollars.”
Albert Dayan, Bout’s lawyer, is scheduled to deliver his closing later today in the court of U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin.
Prosecutors said Bout controlled a fleet of as many as 50 cargo planes capable of transporting weapons and military equipment to Africa, South America and the Middle East. Sahni cited e-mail and secretly recorded conversations made by the U.S. in which Bout and his co-conspirators discussed air- dropping the weapons, a delivery method he allegedly developed as an arms dealer in East Africa in the 1990s.
“We are together, we have the same enemy,” Bout is heard saying on one wiretapped recording. “I’ve been fighting the United States for 10 to 15 years.”
Bout is charged with conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, conspiracy to kill U.S. officers or employees, conspiracy to acquire an anti-aircraft missile and conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist group. If convicted, he faces as long as life in prison.
The case is U.S. v. Bout, 08-cr-0365, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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