New Charges for "Merchant of Death"

Viktor Bout, a Russian businessman accused of being the world's most prolific arms dealer. CBS

A Federal grand jury in New York has indicted Viktor Bout, a Russian businessman accused of being the world's most prolific arms dealer on new charges stemming from his alleged operation to sell weapons to terrorist organizations.

The updated indictment against Bout, dubbed the "Merchant of Death" follows a Thai court's decision last year to reject a request by the United States to extradite Bout to face gun running charges in New York's Southern District. Bout remains in a Bangkok prison pending an appeal by the Thai government of the court's ruling which would allow Bout to walk free.

"Viktor Bout allegedly made a career of arming bloody conflicts and supporting rogue regimes across multiple continents, even using the U.S. banking system to secretly finance a private fleet of aircraft,'' said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, in announcing the new charges including money laundering and wire fraud.

Read the Indictment

Bout who was sought by U.S. officials for more than a decade was arrested in a Bangkok hotel in 2008 allegedly while brokering a multi-million dollar deal to sell weapons to Colombian rebels to kill Americans in what turned out to be a sting operation masterminded by agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Bout is suspected of supplying guns to fuel just about every military conflict in the world since the 1980s, from Colombia to Iraq.

Growing Threat of the Russian Mob

The latest indictment by a New York grand jury unsealed Wednesday charges Bout and an American associate, Richard Chichakli, with conspiring to violate international sanctions aimed at stopping the flow of weapons to armed conflicts in Africa. Chichakli's whereabouts is unknown.

The 43-year-old Bout allegedly emerged as an international weapons trafficker following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. As part his alleged illegal operation, he assembled a huge fleet of air cargo planes capable of transporting weapons and military equipment across the globe. His air cargo company had a reputation of flying almost anything anywhere.

Bout is believed to have been the inspiration for the 2005 movie "Lord of War" starring actor Nicholas Cage who played a charismatic and dangerous Russian arms dealer. He reportedly rented his planes to the movie's producers for use in the film.

Bout has repeatedly denied the allegations against him and has vehemently fought extradition to the United States.

DEA Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart said the new indictment illustrates "the extraordinary breadth of Bout's deadly criminal enterprise.''




  • Pat Milton

    Pat Milton is a CBS News investigative producer

Comments