US prosecutors on Tuesday indicted an alleged Russian arms smuggler they say tried to sell weapons to a US-designated terrorist organization with the goal of killing Americans.
The indictment charges Viktor Bout with four terrorism offenses, including conspiring to kill Americans, conspiring to kill US officers or employees, conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and conspiring to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile.
The charges were based in part on a covertly recorded meeting in Thailand on March 6. Prosecutors say Bout said he understood that leftist rebels in Colombia wanted to use weapons against Americans.
Bout was arrested earlier this year in Thailand. The US is seeking his extradition on charges that could result in a life sentence.
Bout was accused of saying the group’s fight against the US was also his fight because the US was also his enemy.
“Viktor Bout no doubt faces some of the most extraordinarily serious conspiracy charges possible for his crimes against Americans,” Michele Leonhart, acting administrator of the US Drug Enforcement Administration. “With the unsealing of this indictment, we are one step closer to ensuring Bout has delivered his last load of high-powered weaponry and armed his final terrorist.”
Bout’s arms dealings reportedly inspired a 2005 movie about the illicit arms trade. He has declined to comment to reporters in Thailand, but has long denied being involved in illicit deals.
Prosecutors say Bout conspired with others to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons, including 100 surface-to-air missiles and armor-piercing rockets.
The indictment said they intended to sell the arms between last November and March to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The indictment said the organization’s violent acts directed against the US and US interests have included the murder of Americans, the kidnapping of US nationals and the bombing of a restaurant in Bogota, Colombia, frequented by US nationals.