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Viktor Bout
Born Виктор Анатольевич Бут
Viktor Anatolyevich Bout

13 January 1967(1967-01-13) (age 54)
Dushanbe, Tajik SSR, Soviet Union
Other names Vadim Markovich Aminov, Viktor Bulakin, Victor Anatoliyevich Bout, Victor But, Viktor Budd, Viktor Butt
Known for Convictions for criminal intent to traffic arms and conspiracy to kill

Viktor Anatolyevich Bout (Russian: Виктор Анатольевич Бут) (born 13 January 1967, near Dushanbe, Tajik SSR, Soviet Union) is a convicted Russian arms smuggler.

A citizen of Russia, he was arrested in Thailand in 2008 before being extradited in 2010 to the United States to stand trial on terrorism charges after having been accused of intending to smuggle arms to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to use against U.S. forces.[1][2][3] On 2 November 2011, he was convicted by a jury in a Manhattan federal court of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and officials, deliver anti-aircraft missiles, and provide aid to a terrorist organization.[4][5]

A former Soviet military translator,[6] Bout had reportedly made a significant amount of money through his multiple air transport companies,[7] which shipped cargo mostly in Africa and the Middle East during the 1990s and early 2000s.[8] As willing to work for Charles Taylor in Liberia as he was for the United Nations in Sudan and the United States in Iraq,[7][9] Bout may have facilitated huge arms shipments into various civil wars in Africa with his private air cargo fleets during the 1990s.[10]

Bout says he has done little more than provide logistics, but former British Foreign Office minister Peter Hain called Bout a "sanctions buster"[7] and described him as "the principal conduit for planes and supply routes that take arms ... from east Europe, principally Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine, to Liberia and Angola".[11]

In cooperation with American authorities,[9] Royal Thai Police arrested Bout in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2008.[12] The United States demanded his extradition, which was eventually mandated by the Thai High Court in August 2010.[3] Before his extradition to the United States in November 2010, he expressed confidence that this U.S. trial would eventually lead to his acquittal but this did not occur.[13][14][15] From January 2011 to June 2012 Bout was incarcerated in the Metropolitan Correctional Center, New York City.[citation needed] Following his conviction, he was sentenced on 5 April 2012 to 25 years imprisonment by a U.S. judge. In June 2012 he was transferred to the United States Penitentiary, Marion, Illinois.[16][17][18][19]

Personal history[]

UN documents and Bout himself both state his birthplace as Dushanbe, USSR, (now the capital of Tajikistan)[20][21][22][23] possibly on 13 January 1967,[20][23][24] but a few other birthplaces have been suggested:[21][25] A 2001 South African intelligence file listed him as Ukrainian in origin.[26][27]

Soviet military service[]

There is some confusion regarding Bout's military career although it is clear that he served in the Soviet Armed Forces. Having graduated from the Military Institute of Foreign Languages,[23][28][29] he is said to be fluent in six languages.[30] These include Persian and Esperanto, which he had mastered by age 12,[31][32] and in the early 1980s he was member of the Esperanto club in Dushanbe.[33]

Bout's personal website states that he served in the Soviet Army as a translator, holding the rank of Lieutenant.[6] He is thought to have been discharged in 1991 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.[24] But other sources state he rose to the rank of Major in the GRU[7] (an arm of the Soviet military that combines intelligence services and special forces[7]), that he was an officer in the Soviet Air Forces,[9] that he graduated from a Soviet military intelligence training program,[24] or that he was a KGB operative.[20]

Bout was involved with a Soviet military operation in Angola in the late 1980s.[23][28][34] He has said he was in Angola for only a few weeks.[20] Bout's web site states that he began an air freight business in Africa around the time of the collapse of the USSR.[22]


Bout's nickname, "Sanctions Buster", is due to his being implicated in the facilitation of the violation of UN arms embargoes in Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of Congo during the 1990s.[35] Bout's air freight companies provided service to the French government,[20] the UN,[27][36] and the U.S.[27][36][37] Bout has reportedly shipped flowers,[29] frozen chicken,[7][29] UN peacekeepers,[29] French soldiers, and African heads of state.[20]


Bout acknowledges having been to Afghanistan on numerous occasions during the 1990s[21][38] but has denied dealing with al Qaeda or the Taliban.[39]

Beginning in 1994[39] he made shipments for the pre-Taliban government, which later became the Northern Alliance, and he knew Ahmed Shah Massoud, an Afghan Northern Alliance commander.[20] The CIA has described Bout-owned planes as transporters of small arms and ammunition into Afghanistan.[34] In 1995 he was involved in negotiations to free Russian hostages during the 1995 Airstan incident.[40]


A 2000 United Nations report stated, "... Bulgarian arms manufacturing companies had exported large quantities of different types of weapons between 1996 and 1998 on the basis of (forged[23]) end-user certificates from Togo",[41] and that "... with only one exception, the company Air Cess, owned by Victor Bout, was the main transporter of these weapons from Burgas airport in Bulgaria".[41] This was the first time Bout was mentioned in connection with arms trading,[42] and the weapons may have been destined for use by União Nacional para a Independencia Total de Angola (UNITA),[41] one faction in Angola's 1975–2002 civil war.

Another suspected arms dealer, Imad Kebir, is said to have employed Bout's aircraft during the mid-1990s to transport weapons to Africa from Eastern European states.[43] The cargo supposedly had Zairean end user certificates, but the true end-user was UNITA.[43] From 1993, UNITA was covered under Resolution 864, a United Nations Security Council embargo prohibiting the importation of arms to Angola.[44]

Sierra Leone[]

Bout was suspected of supplying Charles Taylor with arms for use in the Sierra Leone Civil War. Eyewitnesses describe personal meetings between the two.[45]

United Arab Emirates[]

In 1993 Bout began collaborating with Syrian-born Richard Chichakli[46] and in 1995 the Sharjah International Airport in the United Arab Emirates hired Chichakli to be the commercial manager of its new free trade zone, which saw use from Bout.[46] Chichakli was, at one time, called Bout's "financial manager" by the U.S.[47]


After the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, Bout appeared in Moscow and stated that while his aircraft made regular flights to the country, he had never made contact with al Qaeda or the Taliban — instead supplying the rebel Northern Alliance.[48] He may have sold planes to the Taliban, however.[49]


Soon after the beginning of the 2001–present war in Afghanistan, al Qaeda is said to have moved gold and cash out of the country; reports state that some of the planes used to do this were linked to Bout.[43] In July 2003 the New York Times interviewed Bout, who stated that "I woke up after Sept. 11 and found I was second only to Osama."[50]


Bout is suspected of supplying weapons to numerous armed groups in the Second Congo War in the 2000s and may have employed some 300 people and operated 40 to 60 aircraft.[25]


Bout's network allegedly delivered surface-to-air missiles used to attack an Israeli airliner during takeoff in Kenya in 2002.[51]


Bout was reportedly seen meeting with Hezbollah officials in Lebanon during the run-up to the 2006 Lebanon War. Some sources claim he was actually in Russia when the meeting took place.[52]


Records found in Muammar Gaddafi's former intelligence headquarters in Tripoli, shortly after the overthrow of the Gaddafi government in 2011, indicated that in late September 2003, British intelligence officials told then-Libyan intelligence chief Musa Kusa that Bout had a "considerable commercial presence in Libya" and aimed to expand his interests there.[53]

Places of residence[]

Bout has lived in various countries, including Belgium,[54] Lebanon,[52] Rwanda,[25] Russia,[54] South Africa,[55] Syria,[37] and the United Arab Emirates.[37]

Alleged Russian government and intelligence ties[]

It is thought that Bout was of help to Russia's intelligence agencies,[3] and he is alleged to have connections to ranking Russian officials, including Igor Sechin.[56] The language institute Bout attended has been linked to the GRU.[25][54][57] Bout allegedly worked alongside GRU-affiliated, and former Russian deputy prime minister, Igor Sechin in Africa in the 1980s[29][58] although both men deny this allegation.[29] According to a 2002 United Nations report, Bout's father-in-law Zuiguin "at one point held a high position in the KGB, perhaps even as high as a deputy chairman".[25]

Orders and warrants regarding Bout[]

Bout's strategy of constantly moving location, owning numerous companies, and frequently re-registering aircraft[7][41] made it hard for authorities to make a case against him. He has never been charged for the alleged African arms deals to which he owes his notoriety.[59]


The Belgians requested that Interpol issue a notice for Bout on charges of money laundering, and in 2002 an Interpol red notice on Bout was issued.[36] Bout's website states that because he failed to appear in court a Belgian warrant (not the Interpol notice) for his arrest was issued but later cancelled.[6] The site has a document in Dutch to support the claim that the Belgian case against him was dismissed due to his lack of a fixed residence and because the case could not be prosecuted in a timely fashion.[60]

On the date of his arrest in Bangkok, an Interpol red notice was requested by the United States against Bout. The alleged crime was conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization.[12] His wanted poster can be viewed here.[61]

Executive Order 13348[]

Bout's U.S. assets were among those frozen in July 2004 under Executive Order 13348. The Order describes him as a "businessman, dealer and transporter of weapons and minerals" and cites his close association with Charles Taylor.[62]

CAR trial[]

Charged in 2000 with forging documents in the Central African Republic, Bout was convicted in absentia but the charges were later dropped.[28]

Thai arrest and extradition[]

Bout was arrested in Thailand on an Interpol red notice and on 16 November 2010, Bout was extradited amid protests by the Russian Government.[3]


Royal Thai Police arrested Bout in Bangkok on 6 March 2008,[12] the culmination of a sting operation set up by Drug Enforcement Administration agents.[9] Bout allegedly offered to supply weapons to people he thought were representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels.[7][9]

Extradition hearing[]

After months of delay, the Criminal Court in Bangkok began an extradition hearing for Bout on 22 September 2008.[63] In February 2009, members of the United States Congress signed a letter to Attorney General Holder and Secretary of State Clinton, expressing their wish that the Bout extradition "remain a top priority".[64]

On 11 August 2009, the Criminal Court ruled in his favor, denying the United States' request for extradition and citing the political, not criminal, nature of the case.[65] The United States appealed that ruling. On 20 August 2010, a higher court in Thailand ruled that Bout could, in fact, be extradited to the United States.[66][67][68]


Viktor Bout in the custody of DEA agents on 16 November 2010 after being extradited to the United States

On 16 November 2010 at 1:30 pm, Bout was extradited to the United States;[1] the Russian government called the extradition illegal.[69][70]

Russia's protests and other actions[]

Russia called the Thai court decision in 2010 politically motivated.[71][72] Its Foreign Ministry took steps to prevent his extradition to the U.S.;[29] Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested that Bout was innocent.[29]

On November 18, 2010, shortly after Bout's extradition to the United States, Russian President Medvedev's aide Sergei Eduardovich Prikhodko said that Russia had "nothing to hide" in Bout's criminal case, stating, "it is in our interest that the investigation ... be brought to completion, and [Bout] should answer all the questions the American justice system has."[73][74] On January 18, 2013, Russian government officials announced that “judges, investigators, justice ministry officials and special services agents who were involved in Russian citizens Viktor Bout’s and Konstantin Yaroshenko’s legal prosecution and sentencing to long terms of imprisonment” would be added to the "Guantanamo list" of U.S. officials who will be denied Russian entry visas, in response for the U.S. "Magnitsky Act", under which certain Russian officials are ineligible to enter the United States.[75]

Prosecution and conviction in the United States[]

The day after his Bangkok arrest, the U.S. Department of Justice charged Bout with conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization,[76] conspiring to kill Americans, conspiring to kill American officers or employees, and conspiring to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile.[63] Additional charges against him were filed in February 2010.[77] These included illegal purchase of aircraft, wire fraud, and money laundering.[2]

Bout was convicted by a jury at a court in Manhattan on 2 November 2011.[4] On 5 April 2012, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison (the minimum sentence)[78] for conspiring to sell weapons to a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist group.[79] District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the minimum sentence was appropriate because "there was no evidence that Bout would have committed the crimes for which he was convicted had it not been for the sting operation".[78] Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement denouncing Bout's sentence as "a political order".[78] During the trial Bout's lawyers also implied that he was a political prisoner.[78] Bout's wife Alla said shortly afterwards that the judge had conducted the trial in a proper way.[80] Viktor Bout pointed out that if the same standards were applied to everyone, all American arm dealers "who are sending arms and ending up killing Americans" would be in prison.[81] In June 2013, a co-conspirator of Bout’s, Richard Ammar Chichakli, was extradited to New York on charges that he conspired to buy aircraft in violation of economic sanctions.[82]

In September 2013, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld Bout's conviction after rejecting Bout's contentions that he had been the victim of a vindictive prosecution and that there was no legitimate law enforcement reason to prosecute him.[83]

In the media[]

The 2005 film, Lord of War, is purportedly based, at least in part, on allegations about Bout's personal history and black-market activities.[7][29][84]

In 2007 Stephen Braun and Douglas Farah published a book about Bout, Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible.[85]

See also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Viktor Bout Extradited to the United States to Stand Trial on Terrorism Charges United States Department of Justice release, 17 November 2010.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "U.S. Announces New Indictment Against International Arms Dealer Viktor Bout and American Co-Conspirator for Money Laundering, Wire Fraud, and Conspiracy". U.S. Indictment released 17 February 2010.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Appeal Court verdict on the extradition of Bout". The Nation, 1 September 2010. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "extradition" defined multiple times with different content
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Russian Viktor Bout convicted over Colombian arms deal". 2 November 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2011. 
  5. "Viktor Bout guilty of Colombian rebel arms deal". BBC, 2 November 2011.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Victor Bout's Personal Website, FAQ.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 "Flying Anything to Anybody", The Economist, 18 December 2008
  8. Бут, Виктор
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 "Revealed: trap that lured the merchant of death" The Observer, Sunday, 9 March 2008
  10. "'Lord of war' arms trafficker arrested", The Guardian, 7 March 2008.
  11. "Viktor Bout". BBC Profile.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 INTERPOL media release, 7 March 2008
  13. "Arms Suspect Vows to Win Case in U.S. After Extradition Order",, 21 August 2010.
  14. Россия хочет заполучить "оружейного барона" Бута, которого отправляют на суд в США NEWSru, 20 August 2010.
  15. Profile: Viktor Bout BBC News, 2 November 2011
  16. "Inmate Locator". Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved 22 January 2011. 
  17. "'Merchant of Death' Viktor Bout sentenced to 25 years".
  18. "International Arms Dealer Viktor Bout Sentenced in Manhattan Federal Court to 25 Years in Prison for Terrorism Crimes", Press Release, United States Attorney, Southern District of New York, 5 April 2012.
  19. "Victor Bout delivered to Marion Prison", The Voice of Russia, 20 June 2012
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 20.5 20.6 Arms and the Man New York Times, 17 August 2003
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 "Meeting Viktor Bout, the ‘Merchant of Death’", BBC Channel 4 Snowblog, 16 March 2009
  22. 22.0 22.1 Victor Bout's Personal Website.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 Addendum to the final report of the Monitoring Mechanism on Sanctions against UNITA S/2001/363
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Trapping the Lord of War, The Rise and Fall of Viktor Bout Part 2: Secretive about His Past., 6 October 2010
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 25.4 "The deadly convenience of Victor Bout". ETH Zurich. 24 June 2008. 
  26. "The Merchant of Death". Foreign Policy.
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun: "The Merchant of Death". (PDF).
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 "Who is Victor Bout?" Global News Blog (The Christian Science Monitor) by Elizabeth Ryan, 22 October 2009
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 29.3 29.4 29.5 29.6 29.7 29.8 Trapping the Lord of War, The Rise and Fall of Viktor Bout Part 1., 6 October 2010
  30. Viktor Bout arrested The Economist, 13 March 2008
  31. "Viktor Bout, seigneur de guerres", L'Express, 24 April 2009
  32. "Un trafiquant d’arme, polyglotte émérite, était espérantophone dans sa jeunesse!" AgoraVox, 12 May 2009
  33. ”Komercisto de la morto” estas esperantisto Libera Folio, 5 May 2009
  34. 34.0 34.1 Farah, Douglas; Braun, Stephen (2007). Merchant of death: money, guns, planes, and the man who makes war possible (2007 ed.). John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-04866-5. ; total pages: 308
  35. Stop Ruthless Arms Brokers that Fuel Deadly Conflicts Amnesty International USA
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 "Meet Viktor Bout, the Real-Life 'Lord of War'" Mother Jones, 13 September 2007
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 [1] ETH Zurich. 24 June 2008.
  38. "Viktor Bout: five passports, half a dozen languages and alleged friend to all sides". Guardian.
  39. 39.0 39.1 Transcript of American Morning with Paula Zahn, 4 March 2002 (air date)
  40. Farah, Douglas; Braun, Stephen (2007). Merchant of death: money, guns, planes, and the man who makes war possible (2007 ed.). John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-04866-5. ; pp. 60–65
  41. 41.0 41.1 41.2 41.3 Copy of the text of S/2000/1225 Final report of the Monitoring Mechanism on Angola Sanctions, UN Security Council, 21 December 2000
  42. Trapping the Lord of War, The Rise and Fall of Viktor Bout Part 3: The Respected 'Mister Vik'., 6 October 2010
  43. 43.0 43.1 43.2 For A Few Dollars More Global Witness, April 2003
  44. UN Security Council Resolution 864, 1993
  45. "Merchant of death: money, guns, planes, and the man who makes war possible". Douglas Farah, Stephen Braun. p. 164
  46. 46.0 46.1 Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible (2007), pp. 53–56
  47. "Viktor Bout – elusive entrepreneur". Financial Times. 6 March 2008
  48. Wines, Michael (1 March 2002). "A Nation Challenged: A Suspect; Russian Goes on the Air To Deny Al Qaeda Ties". The New York Times. 
  49. On the Trail of a Man Behind Taliban's Air Fleet. The Los Angeles Times. 19 May 2002
  50. "Arms and the Man". The New York Times. 7 August 2003. 
  51. Moi Son's Link to Arms Dealer in UN Ban. Africa News. 23 November 2004.
  52. 52.0 52.1 Trapping the Lord of War, The Rise and Fall of Viktor Bout Part 4: Hired to Supply U.S. Forces in Iraq., 6 October 2010
  53. "Khadafy records tie Russian arms dealer to Libya, U.S. experts hunt for anti-aircraft missiles" Associated Press, 5 November 2011.
  54. 54.0 54.1 54.2 "Taking Down Arms Dealer Viktor Bout". 
  55. André Verlöy. "The Merchant of Death". 
  56. Matthews, Owen (2 September 2010). "What Is the Kremlin Hiding?". Retrieved 30 November 2010. 
  57. Farah, Douglas; Braun, Stephen (2007). Merchant of death: money, guns, planes, and the man who makes war possible (2007 ed.). John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-04866-5. 
  58. Sidorov, Dmitry (15 August 2008). "Nothing To Worry A Bout?". Forbes. "According to a report by Stratfor, an American analytic outfit, Bout served with Igor Sechin in Mozambique in the 1980s." 
  59. Arms suspect faces charges in US BBC, Friday, 7 March 2008, 13:36 GMT
  60. A Legal Document in Dutch Victor Bout's Personal Website
  61. Internet Archive Wayback Machine. (26 June 2008).
  62. United States Executive Order 13348 Blocking Property of Certain Persons and Prohibiting the Importation of Certain Goods from Liberia, 27 July 2004
  63. 63.0 63.1 "Russian 'arms dealer' trial opens", BBC, Monday, 22 September 2008
  64. A letter to Secretary of State Mrs. Clinton regarding Bout extradition Victor Bout's personal website
  65. "Thailand rejects Bout extradition". BBC News. 11 August 2009. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 
  66. Hookway, James (21 August 2010). "Thailand Says It Will Extradite Russia's 'Merchant of Death'". 
  67. Pomfret, John (20 August 2010). "Suspected Russian arms dealer Bout to be extradited to U.S., Thai court rules". 
  68. "Russia and US go to war over 'Merchant of Death': Fury in Moscow after Washington wins battle to put suspected arms dealer Viktor Bout on trial". London. 21 August 2010. 
  69. "Extradition of 'arms dealer' Viktor Bout goes ahead". BBC News. 16 November 2010. 
  70. "Thailand extradites accused international arms dealer". CNN. 16 November 2010. 
  71. "PM defends Bout court decision – Russia summons Thai ambassador"
  72. "Russia condemns Thai decision on Bout''s extradition". (20 August 2010).
  73. Dyomkin, Denis (18 November 2010). "Russia says 'nothing to hide' in arms suspect case". Retrieved 29 November 2010. 
  74. "Россия окончательно "сдала" Виктора Бута американцам: хочет полного следствия по всем обвинениям" (in Russian). Russia Has Definitively "Surrendered" Viktor Bout to the Americans and Wants Full Investigation of Charges. NEWSru. 18 November 2010. Retrieved 29 November 2010. 
  75. Loiko, Sergei L. (18 January 2013). "Russians draft 'Guantanamo list' to sanction U.S. officials". Los Angeles Times.,0,1877573.story. 
  76. "International Arms Dealer Charged in U.S. with Conspiracy to Provide Surface-to-Air Missiles and other Weapons to a Foreign Terrorist Organization". United States Department of Justice.
  77. "US files new charges against arms dealer Viktor Bout"., 17 February 2010.
  78. 78.0 78.1 78.2 78.3 "Russian arms dealer gets 25 years in prison". Al Jazeera. 6 April 2012. Retrieved 6 April 2012. 
  79. "Russian Arms Trafficker Viktor Bout Gets 25 Years in US Prison". Voice of America, 5 April 2012.
  80. Jessica Jordan & Liudmila Chernova (9 April 2012). "Alla Bout: husband's trial conducted 'properly'". Voice of Russia (The). Retrieved 9 April 2012. 
  81. "Bout: I'm a hunted deer, US wants my head on their trophy-wall". RT. 4 April 2012. 
  82. Chris Francescani (24 May 2013). "Associate of arms dealer Viktor Bout extradited to New York". Reuters. 
  83. Chris Francescani (27 September 2013). "Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout's U.S. conviction upheld". Reuters. 
  84. "Thailand holds 'top arms dealer'", BBC, Thursday, 6 March 2008
  85. Merchant of Death (ISBN 978-0-470-04866-5). (18 July 2012).

External links[]

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