The international arms dealer, Viktor Bout, aka the "Merchant of Death," has been indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiring to sell weapons to the Colombian leftist terrorist group FARC. The indictment for the first time, alleges that Bout's weapons were to be used to kill Americans.
Bout has been in custody in Thailand since March 6 of this year and was formally arrested in April. The US will now begin the process for extradition.
Earlier this year, in discussions with confidential informants working for the US government, Bout offered to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to the FARC, including 700 to 800 surface-to-air missiles, 5,000 AK-47 assault rifles, millions of rounds of ammunition, land-mines and explosives, night-vision goggles and unmanned aerial vehicles, among other things, according to the indictment. Bout also offered to sell two cargo planes to the FARC and asked for $15 to $20 million to start the arms deal.
The Government alleges that Bout knew the location of US military radar locations in Colombia and reportedly told the informants that he "wanted the arms for use against U.S. forces in Colombia, and advised that the United States was also his enemy," according to the indictment.
The indictment details four separate terrorism charges against Bout, including two counts of conspiracy to kill Americans and one count of providing material support to a terrorist organization. If convicted Bout faces a maximum prison term of life for three of the counts.
Bout was recently singled out as an example of the threat posed by organized crime to the US, by Attorney General Michael Mukasey. "As this example makes clear, although these criminals are not motivated by ideology, when the price is right, they are more than willing to help the people who are motivated by ideology," he said in a speech announcing a US law enforcement effort on organized crime.
By Robert Hendin and Stephanie Lambidakis