[JURIST] A federal jury in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on Wednesday found Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] guilty of four counts of conspiracy [press release] connected with the proposed sale of anti-aircraft missiles to drug enforcement informants posing as members of a Colombian terrorist organization known as FARC. The former Soviet air force officer was convicted by the jury after a three-week trial [NYT report] and only two days of deliberation. Bout’s lawyers did not call witnesses but asserted that Bout, who never provided money or arms to the informants, feigned his willingness to sell arms [Guardian report] in order to make a deal to sell two cargo planes. Scheduled for sentencing in February [BBC report], Bout faces up to life in prison.
Last November, Bout pleaded not guilty days after the Thai government extradited [JURIST reports] him to the US to stand trail. In October, Bout filed an appeal challenging the Bangkok Criminal Court’s decision to dismiss [JURIST reports] money laundering and fraud charges against him, which removed obstacles to his US extradition. According to Bout’s lawyer Lak Nitiwatanavichan, the arms dealer was seeking to have these charges reinstated [Bangkok Post report] to avoid extradition to the US. In August, an appeals court in Thailand ruled that Bout could be extradited [JURIST report] to the US. The court’s ruling overturned a decision it issued a year earlier, refusing to extradite Bout [JURIST report] on the basis that the accusations made by the US were not cognizable under Thai law. Bout was the subject of the book “Merchant of Death” [Reuters report], which inspired a movie by the same name, and is suspected of involvement in arms trafficking to conflict zones in Africa, South America and Middle East since the 1990s.