New details are emerging about Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout’s capture at a five-star hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. At a press conference yesterday, Michael J. Garcia, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Acting DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart confirmed scattered press reports indicating that Bout’s arrest was the result of a DEA operation. According to a press release:
Between November 2007 and February 2008, Bout and Smulian agreed to sell to
the FARC millions of dollars worth of weapons — including surface-to-air
missile systems (“SAMs”) and armor piercing rocket launchers. During a
series of recorded telephone calls and emails, Bout and Smulian agreed to
sell the weapons to two confidential sources working with the DEA (the
“CSs”), who held themselves out as FARC representatives acquiring these
weapons for the FARC for use in Colombia.
In addition, during a series of consensually recorded meetings in Romania,
Smulian advised the CSs, among other things, that: (1) Bout had 100 SAMs
available immediately; (2) Bout could also provide helicopters and armor
piercing rocket launchers; (3) Bout could arrange to have a flight crew
airdrop the weapons into Colombian territory using combat parachutes; and
(4) Bout and Smulian would charge the CSs $5 million to transport the
weapons. During one of the meetings with the CSs, Smulian provided one of
the CSs with a digital memory stick that contained an article about Bout,
and documents containing photographs and specifications for the SAMs and
armor piercing rocket launchers that Smulian had previously said Bout could
In between his meetings with the CSs, Smulian spoke to Bout over a cellphone
provided to him by one of the CSs at the direction of the DEA. These
conversations between Smulian and Bout were legally intercepted by foreign
authorities. During one of these conversations, Bout and Smulian discussed
the $5 million delivery fee for the weapons. Bout also told Smulian, in
coded language, that the weapons requested by the CSs were ready to be
delivered. Subsequent to these phone calls with Smulian, Bout engaged in
multiple recorded phone calls with one of the CSs during which they arranged
the March 6, 2008 meeting in Bangkok.
Bout and Smulian are charged with conspiracy to provide material support or
resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization. If convicted, the
defendants each face a maximum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment.
The U.S. plans to pursue the extradition of Bout from Thailand.
The arrest of Bout yesterday was the result of close cooperation between the
Royal Thai Police and the DEA. Also cooperating in this international
enforcement operation were the Romanian Border Police, the Romanian
Prosecutor’s Office Attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice, the
Korps Politie Curacao of the Netherlands Antilles, and the Danish National
Police Security Services.
Also listed in the press release are the aliases Bout employed in pursuit of his business interests around the world—”Boris,” “Viktor Anatoliyevich Bout,” “Viktor Bulakin,” “Vadim Markovich Aminov,” “Victor But,” “Viktor Budd,” and my personal favorite, “Viktor Butt.” (giggle)