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Notorious Russian Arms Dealer's Conviction Upheld by 2nd Cir.

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on September 30, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

This case reads like the plot to a James Bond movie: a Russian arms dealer caught in an international sting operation for conspiracy to sell arms to Columbian terrorists and drug lords. We can just picture it now, with Daniel Craig chasing villains around in too-tight Tom Ford suits... but we digress.

The Sting

Former Soviet air force officer Viktor Bout was caught in an international sting orchestrated by the U.S. government; he conspired to sell arms to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration informants who were posing as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), reports Reuters. FARC wishes to overthrow the Colombian government, is one of the world's largest cocaine suppliers, and is deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.

After several meetings on several continents, Bout was arrested by Thai authorities in 2008, and later extradited to the United States in 2010.

The Conviction & Appeal

Once on U.S. soil, Bout was indicted and convicted by a jury of four counts of conspiracy. On appeal, he argued unsuccessfully (1) vindictive prosecution; (2) illegal extradition; (3) violation of specialty doctrine; and (4) insufficient clarity in the indictment. The Second Circuit was not convinced and affirmed his conviction.

The fact that Bout was caught in an elaborate international sting operation did not make the Government's actions in this case "outrageous." The fact that Bout was on many U.S. and United Nations "sanctions lists" for nearly a decade showed the prosecution's motivation was not vindictive, but rather based on possible criminal conduct.

The Second Circuit was able to dispose of Bout's remaining claims with ease as they were either legally, or factually, without merit. Regarding his extradition, the court noted that it could not guess another country's decision, and in addition, it noted "the government's power to prosecute a defendant is not impaired by the illegality of the method by which it acquires control over him."

Bout's specialty argument failed because it lacked "any factual basis in the record," while his fourth argument failed because the court found the indictment was clear.

While Bout will spending quite some time in prison, if he's smart, he might be able to get a book deal or movie out of this -- it has all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster.

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