By Vladimir Gladkov
The Russian authorities want to appeal to the US Department of Justice with a request to extradite the imprisoned Russian businessman Victor Bout to Russia. Mr. Bout himself agrees to that.
Victor Bout has been sentenced by a US court to 25 years in prison on charges of weapons smuggling and plotting to kill US citizens.
Russia’s wish to appeal to the US authorities with a request to extradite Mr. Bout is based on a convention which the Council of Europe adopted in 1983. However, such a step of Russia’s authorities may present a certain risk to Mr. Bout. According to the convention, such an appeal may be made only when the court’s final verdict comes into force. But, in Victor Bout’s case, the court’s verdict has not come into force yet, because his lawyers are currently preparing to file a complaint against it. This, the US authorities have a formal pretext to decline Russia’s appeal to extradite Mr. Bout. Judging by the attitude of the US authorities towards him, it may be supposed that they will most likely do everything in their power for Mr. Bout not to be extradited to Russia.
There are serious reasons to suspect that Mr. Bout’s accusers do not really care whether he really smuggled arms or plotted to kill US citizens. They obviously want to have him behind bars regardless of whether he is guilty of anything. Depicting the Russian businessman as one of the world’s greatest arms and drugs smugglers, the US authorities want to distract people’s attention from the fact that Islamist terrorists, who have now turned against the US, were once “bred” by the CIA. To a certain extent, the US authorities are themselves to blame for the tragedy of 9.11.
From 1991 till 2008, Victor Bout, an owner of an air transport company, besides other activities, delivered equipment to US servicemen in Iraq. His company also transferred NATO peacekeepers. However, at present, the US authorities seem not to like to remember about that, preferring to speak about Victor Bout’s alleged crimes instead.
The US authorities are obviously attempting to revenge on Mr. Bout for his active part in the confrontation between the US and Russian intelligence services in the Middle East. They are probably also trying to revenge on him for his active part in freeing a Russian plane that was captured by the Taliban in 1995. There is evidence that the plane’s capturers were backed – unofficially, of course – by US secret services.
On March 6, 2008, Victor Bout was arrested in Bangkok. Later, the US authorities, putting pressure on the Thai ones, made them extradite him to the US.
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To have Victor Bout arrested, the US services used a rather tricky scheme. According to the version that the US authorities officially spread, agents of the US Drug Enforcement Administration contacted Mr. Bout, pretending to be Columbian rebels, and agreed to meet with him to strike a deal under which Mr. Bout would have supplied these “rebels” with weapons.
There even exists a sound recording of what the US authorities claim to be a talk between Mr. Bout and these agents who pretended to be terrorists. This recording served as the main peace of evidence of Mr. Bout’s guilt during his trial. However, a number of experts doubt the authenticity of this recording.
In such conditions, it would have been very risky for Russia to appeal to the US for Mr. Bout’s extradition. Several days ago, New York’s Federal Court, on Mr. Bout’s request, prolonged the term, within which his layers may file in an appeal against the court’s decision. However, the very process of preparing such an appeal is very much complicated by the fact that Mr. Bout has been put in a maximum security prison, where he is practically deprived of any chance to communicate with his lawyers.
Thus, in the present situation, there are very small chances that Mr. Bout will be extradited to Russia. This would have been very much against the interests of the US authorities.