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Viktor Bout


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Before his arrest in March 2008, Viktor Bout, shadowy international arms dealer and war profiteer, ran a network of air cargo companies that specialize in transporting arms to conflict zones. Bout controlled the world's largest private fleet of Antonov cargo planes with heavy airlift capacity, capable of bringing tanks and other heavy arms into difficult terrain. He has fueled dozens of the world's most murderous conflicts by shipping arms clandestinely to rebel groups.

His field of operations included Afghanistan, Angola, Congo, Liberia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Sudan. The US and UK reputedly have used Bout's services to bring shipments into dangerous zones of Iraq. Bout's shipments were not always illicit: his companies have conducted countless trips for the United Nations into the same areas where he supplied the arms that fueled the conflicts and humanitarian crises to begin with. He has airlifted Belgian peacekeepers into Somalia, brought French troops into Rwanda and delivered food aid for the World Food Programme. Viktor Bout has been able to operate with impunity thanks to his many passports, different identities, and the wide support he enjoys from those in power.

In March 2008, Bout was arrested in Bangkok, while attempting to sell arms to US investigators posing as Colombian FARC rebels. The US government sought Bout’s extradition on charges of conspiring to sell weapons to a terrorist organization for use in killing Americans.  The court of first instance ruled against extradition, but this decision was overturned by a Thai Appeals court on August 20, 2010.  Bout was extradited to the US on November 16, 2010, despite opposition from the Russian government.  The US Department of Justice has charged Bout with terrorism offenses including: conspiracy to kill United States nationals, conspiracy to kill United States officers or employees, conspiracy to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile and conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization.  None of these crimes were committed in the US.  Bout’s trial is set for September 2011 at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.  However, Bout’s defense is attempting to have the indictments dropped in preliminary hearings, challenging US jurisdiction to hear the case. 

Reports | Articles


List of Individuals and Entities Subject to the Measures Contained in Paragraph 1 of Security Council Resolution 1532 (2004) Concerning Liberia (June 14, 2004)

In compliance with Security Council resolution 1521 (2003) the Council approved the "assets freeze list." The list freezes funds, other financial assets and economic resources from individuals including former Liberian President Charles Taylor and international arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Report of the Panel of Experts Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1343 (2001), Paragraph 19, Concerning Liberia (October 26, 2001)

This "name and shame" report reveals arms trafficking and sanctions violations in Liberia, in which Viktor Bout is one of the main actors.

Final Report of the Monitoring Mechanism on Angola Sanctions (December 21, 2000)

Section IX of the report highlights Viktor Bouts sanction-busting activities by supplying weapons to the UNITA rebels in Angola. The report focuses on one of Bout's companies, Air Cess, and gives an short historical overview of its operations.

UN Expert Panel Report on Sierra Leone (December 20, 2000)

A UN panel uncovers the role of Viktor Bout and many others in diamond and arms trafficking in Sierra Leone.


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Viktor Bout - Lord of War - Sentenced to 25 Years (April 10, 2012) 

Viktor Bout, the most notorious arms dealer of the last two decades, was sentenced this week to 25 years in prison by a US court for supplying arms to Colombian revolutionary army FARC. Bout had, however, a diverse set of customers during his career - including the US Military, Federal Express, and subsidiaries of Haliburton during the Iraq Conflict (not to mention Charles Taylor, most of Angola, and the Taliban). On Bout’s arrest, arms trade expert Andrew Feinstein attests to the hypocrisy of governments prosecuting arms dealers they’ve previously employed and protected, and calls for the passing of the Arms Trade Treaty to be debated at the UN in July 2012. (African Arguments


"The Merchant of Death" Found Guilty over Arms Traffic (November 2, 2011)

The Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout has been found guilty of conspiring to sell heavy arms to Colombian rebels with the aim of killing US citizens. This verdict puts an end to the high-profile trial of the former Soviet military officer, nicknamed “the merchant of death.” There has been strong opposition around the trial from the Russian government. Bout is due to be sentenced in February, and faces a minimum of 25 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison. (Guardian)

Arrest of ex-Soviet Officer in Arms Case Defended (May 4, 2011)

Prosecutors in the case against alleged arms dealer Viktor Bout, claim to have evidence that he researched and met with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and that he knew the weapons he sold to this group would be used to target US citizens.  The Prosecution made these claims in response to an application by the defense to dismiss the indictment against Bout.  The defense had argued the US government acted improperly arresting Bout in Thailand in 2008, and that the US lacks jurisdiction.  None of the crimes Bout is accused of were committed on US soil nor has Bout ever been to the US before. (Associated Press)

Arms Treaty Campaigners Seize on "Merchant of Death" Case (January 28, 2011)

Viktor Bout, allegedly one of the world's biggest arms dealers, was arrested in Thailand in 2008 at the behest of the US and Russia.  Bout was extradited to the US in 2010 to face terrorism charges.  He is charged under US domestic law, although this jurisdiction is questionable, considering none of his alleged crimes were committed in the US.  Domestic charges were necessary as there is no international law regulating trade in conventional weapons.  An Arms Trade Treaty, proposed in 2003, would create express international obligations and potentially avoid jurisdictional abnormalities such as those seen in the Bout case. (IPS)


Lax Laws Allows US Companies to Be Used for Crimes (November 5, 2009)

Lax laws in the US allow arms traffickers, drug smugglers and money launderers to use American companies to hide their illicit activities from investigators. Government officials cite the case of the "merchant of death" Viktor Bout, a Russian businessman accused of selling weapons to countries torn by civil war in Latin America, the Middle East and Asia. Bout used shell companies around the world to carry his business, including a dozen US corporations. (AP)


The Deadly Convenience of Victor Bout (June 24, 2008)

This ISN Security Watch article describes the extensive career of Victor Bout, one of the biggest international arms dealers, who was arrested in March 2008. Bout is known as a "merchant of death" because of his weapon sales to rebel groups in conflict areas, like the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone and Hizbollah in Lebanon. Bout also sold arms to US troops and according to the author, the US government tried to prevent the UN from freezing Bout's assets, because US troops in Iraq needed weapons that Bout could supply.

Russian Charged with Trying to Sell Arms (March 7, 2008)

This New York Times article reports on the arrest of Viktor Bout, "one of the world's most wanted arms traffickers," in Bangkok. The arrest was the result of a US sting operation, with investigators posing as Colombian FARC rebels. The US has charged Bout with "conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization" and is seeking his extradition from Thailand. Viktor Bout allegedly used his private fleet of Soviet-era planes and an array of companies to run a global "arms bazaar" selling weaponry to both sides during some of the bloodiest conflicts in history.


Bad Guys Make Even Worse Allies (August 13, 2007)

This Los Angeles Times article discusses arms dealer Viktor Bout's close relationship with the Pentagon and the US Defense Department. Bout, who previously delivered arms to former Liberian President Charles Taylor and the Taliban, landed four planeloads of weapons for the US in Iraq in August 2004. Initially, US intelligence did not perform any background checks on him. However, when Bout's role in Iraq was exposed in late 2005, US military officials held off sanctions against his business in order to successfully conclude the US operation in Iraq.

Conflicts in Africa - Millions Suffered, a Few Became Millionaires, One of Them: Viktor Bout (Butt) (August 3, 2007)

This article describes how Viktor Bout makes a copious amount of money at the expense of thousands of lives in Africa by selling and transporting weapons in exchange for cash and natural resources, especially diamonds. In addition to his regular clients who have included African warlords (Charles Taylor, Foday Sankoh), politicians (Robert Mugabe), the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, Bout has a long history with the Pentagon and US companies in Iraq. The Pentagon contracted Bout during the Afghanistan invasion, and after a failed attempt by the Clinton administration to put Bout out of business, the Bush administration gave him a business opportunity by outsourcing weapons transportation to Iraq. (journalismus nachrichten von heute)

Six Questions for Steve Braun on Gunrunner Viktor Bout (July 26, 2007)

In this Harper's Magazine interview, Steve Braun (a national correspondent with the Los Angeles Timesand an expert on Viktor Bout) discusses Bout's rise as the premier gunrunner after the end of the Cold War. Braun also sheds light on Bout's clients across Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, DRC, Angola, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Columbia, and even the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the US military. The Russian government has allegedly protected Bout for years, while the Pentagon has reportedly used his services to organize airlifts in Iraq.


Viktor Bout and the Pentagon (January 12, 2006)

The authors of this New Republic article further expose illegal arms dealer Viktor Bout's smuggling ring. Bout has new companies cropping up repeatedly under different names, but all with the same method of operation. Bout remains in business due to the lack of "concerted effort" to police his actions, in addition to support from governments such as the Bush administration and Russia who continue to supply his companies with contracts. (New Republic)

The Merchant of Death (November/December 2006)

This article exposes Viktor Bout as a ruthlessly efficient international entrepreneur, who has become successful by "exploiting cracks in the anarchy of globalization." Though UN arms embargoes and various international laws theoretically ban his practices, there are no enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance. Governments have been slow in adapting to globalization, and businessmen such as Bout were quick to seize the opportunities this sluggishness offered. For instance, Bout's ability to move around aircraft, registering and reregistering them faster than governments and law enforcers can trace, is one of the reasons he has been so successful. "Perhaps the existence of the merchant of death says more about the world today than it does about the man himself." (


Ties Between Christian Fundamentalists, Texas Oil Interests, etc... (December 12, 2005)

In this article, the author explores the operations of international arms dealer Viktor Bout, whose list of supporters and clients reads like a who's who of the international arena. Links between Bout, the US Christian Right, pro-Likud organizations and the Bush administration's CIA operations abound. Although the United Nations has taken steps to name Bout in various reports and his US assets have been frozen, US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, has ordered him untouchable. (Wayne Madsen Report)


Reconstruction Deal With a 'Merchant of Death'? (December 13, 2004)

A Texas charter firm allegedly controlled by Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout has been making flights to Iraq on behalf of Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root. The news forms an embarrassment for US officials, who recently barred US citizens from doing business with Bout, as well as for Halliburton, which reportedly had "no knowledge" of the alleged Bout link. (Newsweek)

From International Outlaw to Valued Partner (October 21, 2004)

The Jamestown Foundation Terrorism Monitor asserts that Viktor Bout, the infamous arms dealer with alleged connections to former Liberian President Charles Taylor, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban, has thus far eluded justice because of good connections, several companies that hide his name and recent support from the US. Since 9/11, US President George Bush's administration has used Bout to shuttle materials and equipment to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Dealing with the Merchant of Death (September 20, 2004)

The Bush Administration has a contract with at least one of arms trafficker Viktor Bout's companies. An investigation by Mother Jones asserts that Air Bas, a company the UN has tied directly to Bout, has flown charter missions for the US military in Iraq. Though the US Congress and State Department raised concerns on this issue months ago, the Pentagon has not yet responded.

Wanted in Africa, Needed in Iraq (May 20, 2004)

In March 2004 the UN Security Council drafted a resolution freezing assets of mercenaries and weapons dealers who backed ousted Liberian dictator Charles Taylor. However, the resolution failed to mention Viktor Bout, an internationally well known and wanted arms dealer. UN Officials indicate that the US pressured Security Council members to keep Bout off the list because the US and Britain are using his services in Iraq. (Inter Press Service)

The Trafficker Viktor Bout Lands US Aid for Services Rendered in Iraq (May 18, 2004)

A Le Monde investigation reveals that convicted arms trafficker Viktor Bout is currently under contract by the US military for the supply and transport "material" to coalition forces. Bout, subject to an international arrest warrant, specialized in the sale of former Soviet block military stocks to warring countries under embargo, recently including Liberia and Afghanistan.


Arms and the Man (August 17, 2003)

In this New York Times article, Peter Landesman writes about his interview experience with international arms trafficker Viktor Bout. The piece is a fascinating account of Bout's extensive worldwide smuggling operations and his dealings with corrupt governments. Landesman details the high political and financial stakes involved in such activities, and suggests that Bout is "merely the public face of something much larger."


The Merchant of Death (November 20, 2002)

This Center for Public Integrity report offers a comprehensive background of Viktor Bout and his powerful trading network that spreads over Africa, Asia and the Middle East. His customers include rebel leaders, dictators, the United Nations and the US government.

'Viktor B' Watched for Taliban Ties (July 23, 2002)

Viktor Bout's profile rose after the September 11th attack with media reports naming him as a supplier of arms to the Taliban and possibly to al Qaeda. Over the years, Viktor Bout has frequently surfaced in reports by the United Nations and U.S. State Department but he still enjoys his freedom. (Washington Times)

On the Bin Laden Arms Trail (March 1, 2002)

Belgian authorities have issued an international arrest warrant for Viktor Bout. The warrant follows the arrest of Sanjivan Ruprah, one of Bout's suspected associates and also a key figure in the blood diamonds trade. (BBC)

Russian al-Qaida Suspect Gives Moscow Interview (March 1, 2002)

Viktor Bout, subject to an international arrest warrant, insisted in a live interview with a Moscow radio station, that he has never been involved in arms trading. As he spoke, a spokesperson of Interpol's Russian bureau stated that the agency "can say for sure that Bout is not in Russia." (Associated Press)

Arrest Aids Pursuit of Weapons Network (February 26, 2002)

US and EU law enforcement officials disrupt the world's biggest weapons-trafficking network run by Viktor Bout, a former Soviet military officer. A suspected top associate of Bout's is under arrest in Belgium, and investigators say he is providing inside information on how the arms network functions. (Washington Post)


Africa's Merchant of Death (December 23, 2000)

UN reports released in December 2000 expose Viktor Bouts arms trade network in extraordinary detail, including Bout's address and telephone number, says the Guardian.

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