Arms Dealer Viktor Bout Wins Pretrial Victory Against Government

Notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout is on trial in Manhattan for allegedly conspiring to sell weapons to DEA agents posing as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, who claimed they intended to use the weapons against American pilots flying over Columbia to monitor drug activity. Yesterday the judge in that case ruled that statements Bout made to the DEA agents while he was in custody in Thailand, where he was initially arrested for the charges relating to the FARC sting, were inadmissible.

The judge concluded that, contrary to testimony, the agents had been aware of the Thai police’s refusal after Mr. Bout’s arrest to grant him access to legal counsel and to a representative of the Russian embassy. She also found that the agents’ contention that they would have no further access to him after their initial meeting was “false” and that they were untruthful when they denied insinuating they could take Mr. Bout to the United States immediately if he “cooperated” and waived extradition.

Instead, Judge Scheindlin credited the defense team’s assertion that the agents had threatened Mr. Bout, insinuating that he would face “disease, hunger, heat and rape” in Thai jails, where he would face abandonment if he failed to cooperate with the American agents.

Of course, not everything has been so rosy for Mr. Bout in his trial. Last week the same district court judge ruled that the prosecution could introduce evidence of sanctions that were imposed on Mr. Bout by the US and UN for his arms dealing activities although the government could not introduce evidence relating to why the sanctions were imposed. Bout’s lawyer claimed that such evidence was prejudicial and continues to maintain that Mr. Bout has never engaged in arms dealing or arms brokering. As they say, that’s his story and he’s sticking to it.

For those interested in why sanctions were imposed on Mr. Bout, details can be found in this previous post on Export Law Blog