Former Soviet military officer Viktor Bout was convicted in a New York City federal court on Wednesday of conspiracy to kill Americans and U.S. officials, supplying anti-aircraft missiles, and aiding a terrorist organization.
Bout, who earned the title “Merchant of Death” by being the largest illegal weapons merchant in the world, tried to sell surface-to-air missiles to undercover agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) whom he thought were members of Colombia’s largest leftist guerrilla group, the FARC.
Informants from the DEA posing as Colombian operatives recorded Bout saying that the weapons were to be used against their “common enemy,” referring to anti-narcotics forces of the United States operating in Colombia. The informants said that Bout “did everything he could to show he could be the one-stop shop for the FARC,” according to assistant U.S. attorney Brendad McGuire.
In Bout’s defense, his attorney Albert Dayan argued that his client never exchanged any weapons or money, had no intention of selling any arms, and that recorded information from informants was open to interpretation.
The Russian was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and flown to the U.S. in 2010 after a long legal battle for his extradition, causing tensions between Washington and Moscow.
With his conviction, Bout, 44, faces 25 years to life in prison.