"Merchant of Death" Viktor Bout Headed for U.S. Justice

Suspected Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout is led off a car by armed Thai police commandos as he arrives at the criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand, Oct. 5, 2010.
AP
Suspected Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout is led off a car by armed Thai police commandos as he arrives at the criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand, Oct. 5, 2010.
AP

This story was filed by CBS News investigative producer Pat Milton. (Last Updated 9:14 a.m. ET)

Suspected Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout is on his way from Thailand to the United States Tuesday to face terrorism related charges after Thai officials agreed to the extradition request by U.S. authorities, ending a two year tug of war between Washington and Moscow, sources tell CBS News.

Bout, dubbed the "Merchant of Death," was brought from prison to a Thai airport under heavy police guard, including sniper teams, and led onto a U.S. charter jet accompanied by officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that Bout's plane is expected to land in New York around 9 p.m. EST tonight, but declined to name the airport out of security concerns. A press conference with Federal prosecutors is planned for Wednesday morning in New York City.

Bout, 43 (and portrayed in the movie "Lord of War" by actor Nicolas Cage), was arrested more than two years ago at a luxury hotel in Bangkok during a DEA-led sting operation.

A former Soviet military officer, Bout is suspected of being one of the world's most prolific weapons dealers, selling arms to various dictators and rebels — and, in doing so, fueling bloody conflicts in Africa, South America and the Middle East.

Bout claims he ran a legitimate air transport business and denies the charges against him.

He is under indictment in the U.S. on terrorism-related charges.

In August, a Thai court ruled that Bout could be extradited to the United States. On Tuesday, the Thai cabinet and Prime Minister agreed to the extradition, clearing the final legal hurdle just days before Bout's extradition order was set to expire.

Russia's government pressured Thai officials to deny the U.S. extradition request for years as the U.S. government lobbied to see Bout face justice on American soil.

  • Pat Milton

    Pat Milton is a CBS News investigative producer