FARC arms deal risk to Amer­i­cans; U.S. seeks sus­pect’s ex­tra­di­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jerry Seper

A sus­pected in­ter­na­tional arms dealer is ac­cused of con­spir­ing to sell to Marx­ist guer­ril­las in Colom­bia mil­lions of dol­lars worth of weapons to be used to kill Amer­i­cans there, ac­cord­ing to a fed­eral grand jury in­dict­ment un­sealed May 6 in New York.

U.S. At­tor­ney Michael J. Gar­cia said the in­dict­ment stated that Vik­tor Bout had car­ried out his weapons-traf­fick­ing busi­ness since the 1990s by as­sem­bling a fleet of cargo air­planes ca­pa­ble of trans­port­ing weapons and mil­i­tary equip­ment to var­i­ous parts of the world, in­clud­ing Africa, South Amer­ica and the Mid­dle East.

In 2004, as a re­sult of his weapons-traf­fick­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in Liberia, Mr. Gar­cia said, the U.S. Of­fice of For­eign As­sets Con­trol at the Trea­sury De­part­ment placed Mr. Bout on the Spe­cially Des­ig­nated Na­tion­als list, which pro­hibits trans­ac­tions be­tween him and U.S. na­tion­als and freezes his as­sets that are within the ju­ris­dic­tion of the United States.

“Vik­tor Bout has long been con­sid­ered by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity as one of the world’s most­pro­lific arms traf­fick­ers,” Mr. Gar­cia said. “To­day, Bout is in Thai cus­tody fac­ing ex­tra­di­tion to the United States, where he will be pros­e­cuted for agree­ing to arm a ter­ror­ist or- ga­ni­za­tion, an aim of which was to kill Amer­i­can cit­i­zens.”

Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion Act­ing Ad­min­is­tra­tor Michele M. Leon­hart said that be­tween Novem­ber and March, Mr. Bout agreed to sell to the Revo­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia, or FARC, mil­lions of dol­lars worth of weapons, in­clud­ing sur­face-to-air mis­sile sys­tems, ar­mor-pierc­ing rocket launch­ers, AK-47 firearms, mil­lions of rounds of am­mu­ni­tion, anti-per­son­nel land mines, C-4 plas­tic ex­plo­sives, night-vi­sion equip­ment, ul­tra­light air­planes that could be out­fit­ted with grenade launch­ers and mis­siles and un­manned ae­rial ve­hi­cles.

Mrs. Leon­hart said Mr. Bout was ar­rested by Thai au­thor­i­ties on a pro­vi­sional ar­rest war­rant April 9, based on a com­plaint filed in the U.S. Dis­trict Court for the South­ern Dis­trict of New York, charg­ing con­spir­acy to pro­vide ma­te­rial sup­port or re­sources to a des­ig­nated for­eign ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion.

She said Mr. Bout agreed to sell the weapons to two sources work­ing with the DEA, who said they were ac­quir­ing the weapons for FARC, with the spe­cific un­der­stand­ing that the weapons were to be used to at­tack U.S. he­li­copters in Colom­bia.

Ac­cord­ing to the in­dict­ment, dur­ing a covertly recorded meet­ing in Thai­land on March 6, Mr. Bout told un­der­cover agents that he could ar­range to air­drop the arms to FARC in Colom­bia, and of­fered to sell to FARC two cargo planes that could be used for arms de­liv­er­ies.

The in­dict­ment stated that Mr. Bout told the agents he un­der­stood they wanted to use the arms against Amer­i­can per­son­nel in Colom­bia, adding that the U.S. also was his en­emy and that the FARC’s fight against the U.S. also was his fight.

The in­dict­ment charges Mr. Bout with con­spir­acy to kill U.S. na­tion­als; con­spir­acy to kill U.S. of­fi­cers or em­ploy­ees; con­spir­acy to ac­quire and use an anti-air­craft mis­sile; and con­spir­acy to pro­vide ma­te­rial sup­port or re­sources to a des­ig­nated for­eign ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion.

The U.S. is pur­su­ing Mr. Bout’s ex­tra­di­tion from Thai­land.

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