Viktor Bout Arrested

Curious. The Thais just arrested the noted Russian arms dealer, Viktor Bout.

For years, Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout has made millions of dollars allegedly delivering weapons and ammunition to warlords and militants. Officials believe many of his activities may be illegal, and on Thursday, Thai police announced his arrest.

Bout, 41, has made his deliveries to Africa, Asia and the Mideast, using obsolete or surplus Soviet-era cargo planes.

[snip]

According to U.S. officials, Bout — a former Soviet air force officer who speaks multiple languages — has what is reputed to be the largest private fleet of Soviet-era cargo aircraft in the world.

Bout acquired the planes shortly after the breakup of the Soviet Union, the U.S. Department of Treasury said in 2005.

At that time, the U.S. Treasury announced it was freezing the assets of Bout and his associates who are all tied to former Liberian President Charles Taylor. Taylor is currently on trial at the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague.

Intelligence officials said he shipped large quantities of small arms to civil wars across Africa and Asia, often taking diamonds in payment from West African fighters.

I say, "curious," because I doubt this could have happened without US approval–as the promise of an "announcement" in NY later today suggests.

A formal announcement on his arrest is expected later in the day in New York.

And it appears that actual warrant came from our DEA–in connection with Columbia’s FARC.

Bout, the target of an international arrest warrant and U.S. sanctions, was picked up at a Bangkok hotel after he entered Thailand on February 29. Police were searching for an associate.

Bout was attempting "to procure weapons for Colombia’s FARC rebels", the Thai police said in an arrest report.

Which suggests it ties in some way to the cross-border raid the Colombians staged in Ecuador, for which the US is alleged to have provided intelligence. The Colombians nabbed a laptop from the scene of the Reyes assassination–though already there are disputes about what kind of intelligence the laptop included. This may mean the Colombian/Venezuelan conflict will get bigger before it is resolved.

You’ll see long lists of Bout’s customers: Charles Taylor, the Taliban, Ugandan rebels. But what today’s coverage likely won’t reveal is that the US appears to have used Bout’s services in Iraq.

Now, Viktor Bout seems to be back at work in Iraq. According to several sources, his planes, flying under the name of an airline company, British Gulf, likely to disappear as fast as it was created, are assuring "transport of materiel" for the American army. The company’s advantage, one specialist in arms trafficking reveals, relates to the nature of the Russian merchant’s crews and planes: "They’re accustomed to land in any kind of war zone without having a fit. And if one of their planes is shot down, there’s no risk of American pilots’ bodies being dragged through the streets."

I guess we no longer have use of Bout’s services.

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