By Jim Kouri
Russian government officials today blasted the U.S. Justice Department for convicting international arms dealer Viktor Bout and for the stiff 25-year prison sentence, according to a government statement released by Russia’s foreign minister.
U.S. district judge Shira Scheindlin announced the sentence in a Manhattan, New York, federal courtroom on Thursday. The Russian media release called the verdict “biased and politically motivated.”
Bout’s verdict wasn’t a result of the evidence and the U.S. legal authorities fulfilled an “obvious political contract, neglecting arguments and addresses from various levels in defense of the Russian citizen,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“Moscow would take all necessary efforts to bring Bout back to homeland in all possible political, diplomatic and legal ways, the ministry said, adding this issue certainly remained among priorities on Russia-U.S. agenda,” said the statement.
Konstantin Dolgov, Russia’s representative for human right told news reporters in Moscow that this was not the first politically-motivated verdict that relied on shaky evidence, and “not the first case of violation of legitimate rights and interests of Russian citizens by U.S. authorities.”
“The whole situation about Bout confirms serious problems in the U.S. legal system, its selective and biased nature for trials,” Dolgov said. “Unfortunately, we have many examples to this.”
In February 2012, the Russian Foreign Ministry claimed they saw no objective evidence of Bout’s guilt.
Bout, known as “the Merchant of Death,” was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Thursday in Manhattan, New York for attempting to sell weapons to FARC, a Colombian terrorist organization that routinely targets Americans for execution and kidnapping.
The federal judge also ordered a $15 million forfeiture of Bout’s assets derived from weapons trafficking.
Federal prosecutors alleged that Bout was set to sell up to $20 million in weapons and weapons systems including surface-to-air missiles to shoot down U.S. helicopters. U.S. authorities also said that Bout has sold weapons to dictators and guerrilla forces in Africa, South America and the Middle East.
Bout was arrested in 2008 in Bangkok, Thailand, where he was caught in a sting operation led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents. He was eventually extradited to the United States in 2010.
The 45-year old arms dealer is believed to be the inspiration for Nicolas Cage’s arms dealing character in the 2005 film “Lord of War.”
Bout, according to the court documents, was charged with — and convicted of — a wide range of counts including conspiracy to kill Americans, attempting to sell arms to undercover federal agents, wire fraud and violating U.N. Security Council sanctions.