Who is Viktor Bout, the ‘Merchant of Death’ the US traded for Brittney Griner?


Viktor Bout, an outlaw Russian arms vendor typically known as “The Merchant of Death,” was exchanged in a prisoner swap between the US and Russia for the safe return of WNBA star Brittney Griner on Dec. 8. 

Bout had been in US custody since 2008, when a secretive sting operation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration captured him in Thailand.

The probability of swapping Bout and Griner began floating spherical in May, as he was in the midst of a 25-year sentence in federal jail after he was convicted for conspiring to advertise tens of tens of tens of millions of {{dollars}} in weapons for use in opposition to Americans, primarily based on US officers. 

Bout’s larger-than-life fame makes it exhausting to separate actuality from fiction regarding the arms trafficker’s resume. Much of his youth is unknown, nonetheless he’s believed to have been born in 1967 in then-Soviet Tajikistan. Bout was educated as a linguist at a Moscow navy institute sooner than serving with the Red Army as a translator in Angola.

Like most of the burgeoning oligarchs and tycoons to return out of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Bout took profit of the monetary chaos that adopted.

When the Soviet Union broke up, navy gear belonging to the superpower ended up scattered all through the 15 new nations created by the dissolution. These nations had neither the money with which to keep up a navy paid, nor the infrastructure to keep up inventory on the weapons they’d merely inherited.

Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout arrived to Thai court guarded by authorities in 2010.
Russian arms vendor Viktor Bout may probably be involved in a prisoner swap to hold Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan once more to the US.

Viktor Bout seen a chance.

Bout assembled a fleet of ex-Soviet cargo planes — massive Antonov and Ilyushin craft — and commenced making shipments of arms and totally different objects all over the place in the world.

Bout obtained right here to American consideration inside the late ’90s, as he outfitted weapons to the warfare zones of Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the New York Times reported.

But Western intelligence, along with the CIA, had been watching him inside the early ’90s as his transport routes in Africa moved all the items from flowers and chickens to UN peacekeepers and African heads of state.

Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout behind prison bars.
Russian arms vendor Viktor Bout was taken into US custody in 2008.

In the a few years that adopted, his client itemizing grew prolifically. Bout’s reported to have outfitted weapons to Hezbollah, primarily based on The Guardian. He reportedly flew weapons to every the Taliban and their foes, the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. Through a entrance agency, he allegedly even gained a contract to ship FedEx packages to Baghdad.

Bout’s cinematic exploits are generally cited as a result of the inspiration for the 2005 Nicholas Cage film “Lord of War,” which follows Yuri, a fictional arms vendor of Russian descent who runs a big operation to supply weapons throughout the world.

Bout was arrested in Thailand in 2008 after he was lured there by US DEA brokers posing as Colombian rebels. He was extradited to the US in 2010 in opposition to Russian objections, and eventually convicted by a Manhattan jury in 2011 for conspiring to advertise weapons to a selected worldwide terrorist group.

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