How the U.S. Got 'Merchant of Death' Extradited

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

by Pat Milton, CBS News Investigates

CBS News has learned that over the last few days as rumors mounted that the Thai courts were about to grant arms dealer Viktor Bout freedom, the U.S. Government turned up the heat.

Sources told CBS News that high ranking federal officials made it clear to the Thai government that Bout's release would be a "travesty of justice," and that he must face the U.S. terror-related charges against him of conspiring to sell weapons to kill Americans.

Read the Indictment

The U.S. efforts included direct appeals from the State Department to the Thai Ambassador according to sources. Additionally there was an outcry from Capitol Hill, highlighted by this column in the Washington Post written by Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.)

Yesterday's decision by the Thai government to extradite Bout came after an exhaustive two-year tug-of-war between the United States and Russia. Russian officials had condemned the so-called "Merchant of Death's" arrest in Thailand back in 2008 and lobbied hard for his release and return to Russia.

Growing Threat of the Russian Mob

It is unclear when Bout will be transferred to the United States. A specialized team of top federal prosecutors from the Southern District in New York has been preparing a case against Bout since his arrest in March 2008, and are awaiting his arrival for trial.

  • Pat Milton

    Pat Milton is a CBS News investigative producer