Pattaya Daily News

18 March 2009 :: 16:03:03 pm 28300

Viktor Bout Wife Denies “Merchant Of Death” Sold Arms

BANGKOK - The wife of an alleged Russian arms dealer dubbed the "Merchant of Death" told a Thai court on Tuesday that her husband was entirely innocent and merely ran a legitimate air cargo business.
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Viktor Bout, 41, is fighting moves to extradite him to the United States over charges that he funnelled arms to some of the world’s most violent conflicts and to Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda movement.

He was arrested in a sting operation in Bangkok a year ago after allegedly agreeing to supply surface-to-air missiles to US anti-drug agents posing as guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

“I am confident that he has never done any illegal business or done any of the things of which he has been accused,” his wife Alla told the court in Bangkok.

Bout watched from the dock wearing leg shackles and a prison-issue orange top and shorts. His wife said he had only been involved with running an air transportation firm which closed in 2001, adding that it was possible Bout had been framed by his business competitors.

Bout – reportedly the model for the character played by Nicolas Cage in the 2005 Hollywood movie “Lord of War” – denies all the charges.

The former Soviet air force officer faces life in prison if sent to the United States and convicted there on terrorism charges. He has been held at a maximum-security prison outside Bangkok since his arrest.

Bout has been charged with conspiracy to kill US officers or employees and conspiracy to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile, a charge relating to the Bangkok sting operation. A US indictment accuses him of using a fleet of cargo planes to transport weapons and military equipment to Africa, South America and the Middle East.

In a rare television interview broadcast on Monday, Bout said claims that he supplied weapons to Al-Qaeda and the hardline Islamist Taliban regime were all “lies”.

“I never supplied arms and especially never had any deal with Al-Qaeda,” he told Britain’s Channel 4 News from his Bangkok prison.

The nickname “Merchant of Death” was coined by a former British foreign office minister and also used for a 2007 book on Bout’s alleged activities.

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : World News

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