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Who is Viktor Bout, the human trafficker whom Russia wants to exchange for an American basketball player

Date: August 20, 2022 Time: 04:51:20

Gems and weapons, beauty and destruction mark the perilous existence of Victor Bout, the “merchant of death”.

It is said that he traveled the world always accompanied by a gemstone expert and an accountant.

It has been trading in blood diamonds and supplying military supplies to war-torn areas, evading UN embargoes since the 1990s. He has fed the arrival of violent clients, warlords and despots who have staged violent conflicts, from Liberia to Sierra Leone, passing through Al-Qaeda, Afghanistan, the Middle East or Colombia.

His name came from being ostracized at Marion Prison in Illinois. At 55, with training that allows him to speak six languages, this former Soviet soldier is serving a quarter of a century in a restrictive block known as “little Guantanamo.”

The US offered Bout in exchange for 31-year-old basketball player Britney Greener, sentenced on Thursday to nine years for drug trafficking (she had less than a gram in two cans of marijuana), and Paul Whelan, an investigator and security officer. Company. His arrest in 2018 also came when he found several cartridges of hashish for his consumption, although he was given 16 years when he was charged with espionage.

“We are ready to deal with this issue,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday. “But only within the channel of communication established by Presidents Biden and Putin,” he said. “There is a special channel for presidents and, despite some declarations, it is still working,” the head of Russian diplomacy specified.

His American colleague Anthony Blinken said he wanted to continue this discussion after a phone call last week.

However, he elaborated that Griner’s arrest in February, a week before the invasion of Ukraine, and his conviction — “unacceptable” for Biden — reveal Moscow’s misbehavior with arrests “to advance its agenda using pledgers.”

But he is serving a 25-year sentence in Illinois for arming himself in some of the most violent conflicts since the 1990s.

Some sources indicate that the Kremlin also wants in exchange for Vadim Krasikov, who was sentenced to life in Germany for shooting down a Chechen enemy in Berlin in 2019. The United States considers this request impossible.

“Viktor Booth was a unique being, born at the end of communism and the rise of unbridled capitalism when the wall fell,” says Douglas Farah, co-author of Stephen Brown’s book Death Dealer.

This 2007 book explains Booth’s rise as well as the inspiration for the movie Lord of War (2005) starring Nicolas Cage.

Two stories, a non-fiction story and a dramatized one, reached the public before his downfall.

The Russian businessman, as he believes himself, was arrested in 2008 during a special operation led by US drug agents in Thailand. They posed as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Finally, he was extradited to the US in 2010 after a lengthy legal process. The trial took place in New York in 2011.

Presumably, he was born in 1967 in Dushanbe (Tajikistan) in the family of an accountant and a car mechanic.

“He was a Soviet officer, perhaps a lieutenant, who simply saw an opportunity presented by three factors that arose from the collapse of the Soviet Union,” Farah said.

Factors he cited were abandoned planes that could not fly due to lack of fuel or maintenance, huge stockpiles of surplus weapons guarded by heavily bribed guards, and the emergence of numerous armed groups from Africa to the Philippines.

This ex-Soviet soldier grew up using the opportunities associated with the fall of the USSR.

At the trial, Manhattan federal prosecutor Preet Bharara called Bout “public enemy number one” who unleashed the most violent conflicts. “He gave weapons to terrorist organizations that wanted to kill Americans,” he said.

Everything is conditional. Today Booth is a bargaining chip for two non-convicted citizens caught with a small amount of marijuana.


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