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Arms dealer Viktor Bout convicted

November 03, 2011 16:23 IST

Former Soviet Air Force officer and arms dealer Viktor Bout was on Thursday found guilty of conspiring to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to a Colombian terrorist organisation to be used to kill Americans.

Bout was arrested in Thailand in March 2008 and was charged in a four-count indictment in May that year.

He was convicted on Thursday after a three-week jury trial of conspiring to kill US nationals, officers and employees, conspiring to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles and conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organisation, the Justice Department said.

He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, including a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison.

Bout is scheduled to be sentenced by US District Judge Shira Scheindlin on February 8, 2012.

"Today, one of the world's most prolific arms dealers is being held accountable for his sordid past," Attorney General Eric Holder said.

"Viktor Bout's arms trafficking activity and support of armed conflicts have been a source of concern around the globe for decades".

US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara said Bout aimed to sell a weapons arsenal to terrorists for the purpose of killing Americans.

"With today's swift verdict, justice has been done and a very dangerous man will be behind bars".

According to the indictment and evidence presented at the trial, between November 2007 and March 2008, Bout agreed to sell to Colombian terrorist organisation Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) millions of dollars' worth of weapons.

These included 800 surface-to-air missiles, 30,000 AK-47 firearms, 10 million rounds of ammunition, five tons of C-4 plastic explosives, 'ultralight' airplanes outfitted with grenade launchers and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Bout agreed to sell the weapons to two undercover agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

During a covertly recorded meeting in Thailand in March 2008, Bout told the agents he could arrange to airdrop the arms to FARC in Colombia and offered to sell two cargo planes to the organisation that could be used for arms deliveries.

He said he understood the weapons would be used against American personnel in Colombia and added that "we have the same enemy," referring to the United States.

He further said FARC's fight against the US was also his fight and that he had been "fighting the United States... for 10 to 15 years".

Bout had also offered to provide people to train the FARC in the use of the weapons.

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