Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout has been convicted of selling heavy weaponry to terrorists by a U.S. jury in New York on Wednesday. Bout, a former Soviet officer who inspired 2005 movie "Lord of War" starring Nicholas Cage, was found guilty of trading arms to people he believed were Colombian rebels on the verge of attacking American soldiers.
He was arrested in Bangkok in 2008 in a US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sting operation and sent to New York in 2010 to face two terrorism charges. The first is to kill US nationals and officers of the U.S., while the other one is to plot to sell anti-aircraft missiles to a terrorist organisation.
U.S. informants disguised as arm buyers from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia met the Russian arms dealer in Thailand to buy an arsenal of military weapon. They told Bout that the arms were supposed to target pilots from the U.S. army. According to the informants, Bout responded "We have the same enemy."
FARC is considered one of the world's most dangerous terrorist organisations by the U.S. Inspired by Marxism, the guerrilla army is allegedly involved in the cocaine trade.
Bout's barrister Albert Dayan denied any charges in his closing argument on Monday, claiming that the government's case was "pure speculation" and that his client had never intended to sell any weapon.
Prosecutors and anti arms-trade campaigned cheerfully reacted to the news of the trial verdict.
"The verdict in the Viktor Bout trial closes the book on one of the most prolific enablers of war, mass atrocities and terrorism in the post-Cold War era," Oxfam arms expert Kathi Lynn Austin said. "We should all be grateful that the world is safer now that the man who armed the hot spots of the globe is behind bars."
Other pointed out the lack of global treaties regulating the activities of arms dealer. "The trial has proven, beyond reasonable doubt indeed, how murky and unregulated the world of arms trading is," Oistein Thorsen, humanitarian campaigner at Oxfam International said. "We can't rely on well-paid informants to catch all rogue traders. The answer is better global regulations."
"This can only be achieved through a robust Arms Trade Treaty," Thorsen continued. "This treaty, to be negotiated at the United Nations this summer, is our best hope to deter arms dealers from doing business with some of the world's biggest human right abusers."
Russian Foreign Ministry Alexander Lukashevich said on Thursday that he will try to bring Bout back "to his motherland". He said alleged pressure from US authorities and poor prison conditions "put in doubt the very basis on which the charge was made and, accordingly, the fairness of the verdict itself," according to The Daily Telegraph