Home Entertainment Who is Victor Bout? Russian arms dealer known as “Merchant of Death” traded for Brittney Griner

Who is Victor Bout? Russian arms dealer known as “Merchant of Death” traded for Brittney Griner

by Ana Lopez
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Convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, known as the “Dealer of Death,” was released by the United States in exchange for the release of women’s basketball star Brittney Griner, who had been imprisoned in Russia since February.

For months, Russian official media has speculated that Bout, whose freedom the Kremlin has long wanted, could be traded for Griner, who has been sentenced to nine years in prison for possession of cannabis oil vape cartridges.

There was talk of a possible trade between Griner and US Navy veteran Paul Whelan, who was sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison on espionage charges that he called a set-up and which US authorities denounced as bogus. However, the final agreement only applied to Griner.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave the public a first look at efforts to repatriate Griner and Whelan on July 27. Blinken stated that the United States has made an “important proposal” to Russia in an effort to secure Griner’s return. and Whelan.

Who is Viktor Bout
Who is Viktor Bout

After a week, Russian officials stated they were “ready to talk” about the possibility of a prisoner exchange. At the time, US media reported that the offer on the table included a possible prisoner exchange for Bout, but officials from the Biden administration would comment.

The Kremlin insisted that no agreement had been reached “yet” and there was no public update of the negotiations for months. U.S. officials have been “actively engaged over these many months to try and move things forward” in an effort to “get our troops home,” Blinken told me. CBS newsMargaret Brennan on “Face the Nation” last Sunday.

After being lured to Thailand as part of a covert Drug Enforcement Administration operation that spanned three continents, Bout, a former Soviet Union military interpreter turned international arms dealer, has been incarcerated for more than a decade.

In 2010, Michael Braun, the former US Drug Enforcement Administration chief of operations, said in “60 Minutes” that in his opinion, “Viktor Bout is one of the most dangerous guys on the planet.”

According to a biography of him published in The New Yorker in 2012, Bout, the son of a bookkeeper and auto mechanic, was recruited into the Soviet Army at the age of 18. After two years in an infantry unit in western Ukraine, he applied to the Military Institute of Foreign Languages ​​in Moscow and was accepted to study Portuguese there.

Despite claims to the contrary from his former business partner and a former CIA official, Bout told The New Yorker that he never operated as a spy. At the age of 28, he started loitering in the cargo hangars at Sharjah International Airport in the United Arab Emirates and eventually launched his own cargo airline, Air Cess, with a small fleet of Russian aircraft to transport products to Africa and Afghanistan.

Bout continued to supply more advanced weaponry to both sides of deadly civilian battles in the years that followed. Someone else would if I didn’t,” Bolt told the New Yorker.

The American and British authorities had already started to keep an eye on him at that time. British Foreign Secretary for Africa Peter Hain raised the alarm as increasingly sophisticated weaponry was used to attack British troops in Africa.

“Warlords violating international sanctions prolong the bloodshed in Sierra Leone and Angola, leading to the death and disfigurement of countless people.

By owning airlines that transport weapons and other logistical support to rebels in Angola and Sierra Leone and removing the diamonds that pay for those weapons, Viktor Bout is indeed the main sanction breaker and a death dealer, helping and encouraging people who turn around their guns on British soldiers “Hain stated this in 2000 before the House of Commons.

According to ‘Operation Relentless: The Hunt for the Richest, Deadliest Criminal in History’, by Damien Lewis, the title ‘Merchant of Death’ had spontaneously occurred to Hain after reading another intelligence briefing about Bout’s actions. The press “immediately struck a chord,” as the saying goes.

The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced fines against Bout and his companies, freezing their assets and preventing them from transacting through US banks.

Due to the opaque nature of his operation, two of his companies were engaged by the US government to supply US troops in Iraq. In 2007, the DEA devised a strategy to get Bout out of Russia with an irresistible arms deal.

The organization sent a secret agent to negotiate a commercial transaction with one of Bout’s closest confidants. This conversation paved the way for the DEA fake gun buyers to meet Bout’s accomplice on the island of Curaçao, a few hundred miles off the coast of Colombia, posing as Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) officials.

Who is Viktor Bout
Who is Viktor Bout

Andrew Smulian, a business partner of Bout, flew all the way to Moscow to personally offer him the transaction. Two weeks later, in Copenhagen, Smulian met with the undercover agents and said his business partner had approved the plan.

A few weeks later, Bout thought he was going to Thailand to meet with FARC officials about sending what prosecutors called “an arsenal of military-grade weapons” to attack US helicopters in Colombia.

Bout admitted that the weapons could be used to kill Americans during a meeting with DEA ​​informants posing as FARC leaders in a conference room in a Bangkok hotel in March 2008.

The meeting was overheard by Thai police and DEA agents, who immediately entered the room and captured Bout. The match is over, Bout declared. In 2010, after two years of legal proceedings, he was extradited to the United States, where he was tried and convicted of terrorism the following year.

The court sentenced Bout to 25 years in prison. Despite the fact that he is already 55 years old, he would not be released from federal prison until August 2029. Before his sentencing, Bout told The New Yorker, “They’re going to try to lock me up for life.”

“However, I plan to visit Russia again. Frankly, I have no idea when that will be. However, I am still a young man.” This revised version was originally printed July 28, 2022.

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