Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

'Merchant of Death' gets 25 years

A notorious arms dealer dubbed the "Merchant of Death" has been sentenced to 25 years in prison following his conviction on terrorism charges.

After former Soviet officer Viktor Bout was sentenced in New York on Thursday, Russia's Foreign Ministry called the sentence "unfounded and biased" and pledged to seek his return home.

Russia had described Bout's arrest as illegal.

Bout has been in jail since his arrest in Thailand four years ago after he met US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) operatives posing as agents of a Colombian terrorism group. He was extradited to the US for trial in 2010.

Prosecutors portrayed Bout as one of the world's worst villains. They say the 45-year-old was ready to sell up to 20 million US dollars in weapons, including surface-to-air missiles to shoot down US helicopters. Bout has insisted he is a legitimate businessman.

On Thursday, Bout made clear he had heard enough in court, although a federal prosecutor was only two minutes into an argument urging a harsh prison sentence.

"It's a lie!" Bout blurted out in English - a rare show of raw defiance for a defendant facing a possible life term. Despite Bout's outburst and his insistence that he was framed, he received only the mandatory minimum 25 years in prison.

The way federal agents went about capturing Bout - an elaborate sting that lured him to Thailand - appeared to play in his favour at his sentencing.

US district judge Shira Scheindlin said 25 years - not the life sentence wanted by prosecutors - was sufficient and appropriate because there was no evidence that Bout would have been charged with seeking to harm Americans if not approached by informants posing as Colombian rebels.

Bout's sentencing came months after a jury convicted him of four conspiracy charges relating to his support of a Colombian terrorist organisation.


From Belfast Telegraph