A US federal judge in New York on Thursday sentenced former Soviet military officer and arms dealer Viktor Bout to twenty-five years in prison for conspiring to sell heavy weaponry to anti-American guerrillas in Colombia.
US Judge Shira Scheindlin also sentenced Bout to five years' probation and ordered him to forfeit $15 million. The prosecution had earlier demanded life sentence for the Russian. During the hearing, Bout, who has denied any wrongdoings, shouted that the prosecutions claims about him agreeing to sell weapons to kill Americans was "a lie."
Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara welcomed the sentencing and said in a statement: "Viktor Bout has been international arms trafficking enemy number one for many years, arming some of the most violent conflicts around the globe. He was finally brought to justice in an American court."
Bout, nick-named the "Merchant of Death," was extradited to the United States from Thailand in 2010. He was arrested in March 2008 at Bangkok by U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officers posing as Colombian rebels trying to buy arms. His extradition came after a long and lengthy legal process in which he was backed by Russia.
The Russian was convicted by a US federal jury in November of attempting to sell heavy arms to a Colombian rebel group. The Russian was charged with conspiring to kill U.S. nationals, officers and employees, plotting to use and acquire anti-aircraft missiles, and conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
According to an earlier indictment filed in 2009, Bout was accused of trying to sell sophisticated arms to undercover agents posing as members of Colombia's Leftist FARC rebel group, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States.
During earlier hearings, the prosecution had argued that Bout had agreed to sell 100 surface-to-air missiles, 20,000 high-powered rifles and 10 million rounds of ammunition to undercover agents.
The prosecutors told the jury that Bout had agreed to go through with the arms sale despite being informed by agents posing as FARC members that the weapons were intended to be used against US pilots working with Colombian officials.
Bout's lawyers, however, dismissed those claims, insisting that their client was trying to sell only two old cargo aircraft for $5 million, using the false promise of arms as a bait to lure the Colombian rebels to buy the two aircraft.
by RTT Staff Writer
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