Nicholas Schmidle profiles Viktor Bout in the New Yorker this week [gated link].
Schmidle is at his best when describing the sting operation in Thailand. We learn that Bout researched the FARC before the meeting with undercover DEA agents, and arrived in Thailand with a copy of Lonely Planet: Colombia. One of the undercover agents was a former cocaine smuggler from Guatemala who regularly provides these types of services to the DEA, and for a related sting received $7 million from the State Department. After Thailand agreed to extradite Bout to the US, the Americans were so worried the Russians would try to free or assassinate Bout that they arranged for a decoy convoy to go from the prison to the Bangkok airport, and then actually transported Bout to a military airport in a smaller convoy.
And we learn some fun facts about Bout’s New York trial. The judge prohibited either side from saying “Rwanda” or “Libya,” as she deemed these “buzz-words.” Bout’s lead lawyer comes across as not very skilled, inappropriately colloquial, unnecessarily dramatic, and weak in his use of analogies.
Schmidle interviewed Bout in prison several times for this story. Bout denied working with Charles Taylor.
Undercover DEA agent acting like a FARC guy: We want to knock down those American sons of bitches. Because we’re tired…Kill them and kick them out of my country…They don’t care where they go anymore. They go here, they go there…They go wherever they want. Why?
Bout: Yes, yes, yes. They act as if… as if it were their home.
That’s from the transcript of the conversation between the undercover DEA agents and Viktor Bout, immediately preceding Bout’s arrest. The transcript can be downloaded here (164 page PDF).
Much of what Bout said involved (what I interpret as) exacerbated fake empathizing with the pretend FARC guys. The undercover DEA agents spent a lot of energy playing the role of FARC militants. In the transcript they repeatedly get “distracted” from the technical conversation of what weapons they need and go into tirades against the Americans.
Some of the transcript is hard to follow, but some highlights:
- The arrest is on pages 163-164.
- On page 154 Bout proposes he be called “Alejandro” for the Brazilian passport the “FARC” guys propose to get him.
H/t to Tracking Bout.
Johnny Dwyer updates us on a New York judge’s order on the Victor Bout case. (For some reason the order has just been withdrawn.)
In the order, the judge questioned the behavior of the Drug Enforcement Agency agents involved in the sting that led to Bout’s arrest. There are allegations the agents told Bout he would be abandoned, raped, and face disease and hunger in a Thai jail–apparently to persuade him to cooperate. The agents deny this, but in the order the judge was skeptical. The judge also highlighted the fact that Bout was interrogated in English, which of course is not his native language.
The credibility of the DEA agents has importance beyond the Bout case, as they are involved in other narcoterrorism-related cases.
Well, it is a day I had long predicted would never occur, but I have never been happier to be wrong. A Thai appeals court today ruled the Russian weapons merchant Viktor Bout could be extradited to stand trial in the United States.
That’s from one of my favorite blogs, douglasfarah.com. Farah’s post from yesterday has a concise overview of the Bout case, but if you want to read an excellent description of last year’s Russian/Thai/American legal maneuverings, check out this Farah post from September 2009.
And if you find all of this arms dealing stuff a bit depressing, check out www.victorbout.com, Bout’s personal (though sadly not-recently-updated) website for a good laugh.
I’ve spent the past few weeks wondering why no one comments on my blog posts anymore, and readers have spent the past few weeks wondering why their comments seemingly have been censored.
It turns out all requests for comment approval have been filtered into my spam folder. I have just approved all of the legit comments. Apologies about this. One reader accused me of censoring dissenting views; this was not the case.
One of the comments pointed me to Victor Bout’s Air Cess website, which does in fact in work. (In a post I had mocked the fact that the link was broken.) Had I accessed the site at the time, I would have had even more to mock. Bout’s narcissism is unparalleled:
Air Cess Aviation is probably the world’s most documented airlines name at the highest official levels by governments worldwide, and the most recognized aviation company by the United Nations and its related circles and organizations. Although the company no longer exists since the end of 2000, it is still being discussed and talked about on a daily-basis at the highest political levels.
Air Cess Aviation became a legend because of its founder, Victor A. Bout, a man who has been discussed, debated, argued, analyzed, and scrutinized by the world as a whole, and had specialized intelligence divisions in all of the world’s power housed specially assigned to reveal the mysteries surrounding him and his business-core, Air Cess Aviation.
If you can translate that last paragraph, please post below!
Thanks to Chris for pointing me to Victor Bout’s personal website. Bout, arms trader extraordinaire, has been in prison in Thailand. The US is trying to have him extradited, but increasingly it is looking like this might not happen.
Bout’s website uses different pages to counter the charges against him. Either he writes using the royal “we” (as in “Please use email to send us your questions“), or he has a team of web developers.
The front page says:
In reality Victor Bout is not, and never was an arms dealer, nor had he a business empire that spanned the globe. So what was the actual business of Victor Bout, and how many aircraft did he own, who were the employees, and where did the business operate? Here’re the facts about Aircess, and the other ventures of Victor Bout.
Yet sadly the links associated with “Aircess” and “other ventures” do not work.
The documents page has a subcategory called “Stories and Fairytales,” under which he links to stuff by one of my favorite reporters/authors, Douglas Farah.
I mock the site, but it’s impressively comprehensive. The documents page links to tons of the legal documents related to his extradition case. A video page links to YouTube videos that argue there is a conspiracy against him.