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24 Aug, 2010 11:20

Extradition to US of accused Russian arms dealer suspended

On Wednesday, Thai media claimed that a Russian businessman wanted for arms smuggling in the US may have been involved in the 9/11 terror attacks.

It's reported that American secret services have proof that Viktor Bout had been arming the terrorists behind the attacks.

Earlier on Monday Thai authorities said Bout, wanted for arms dealing in the US, will not to be extradited immediately.

On August 20, a Thai court ruled Viktor Bout must be extradited to the United States. Washington is seeking his extradition from Thailand and wants him to be tried on the US soil on numerous charges, including arms trafficking and violation of international trade law.

As early as August 24, there were media reports suggested the extradition would take place on Wednesday, August 25. To fly him to America, a special plane with 50 US commandos reportedly arrived in Bangkok, where Viktor Bout is being held.

However an impediment to the process has emerged. Ahead of the hearing on August 20, fearing he would be cleared, the US brought new charges of money-laundering and fraud against Bout.

Thai law now requires him to stay in Thailand until the fresh proceedings are over, and experts say Washington is concerned the extradition order will expire before this happens. Consequently, the US is trying to withdraw the new charges.

Russian news agency ITAR-TASS quoted Bout as saying on Tuesday that, even in the case of his extradition to the United States, the accused fully relied on his nation’s support. “I will not talk to Americans without Russian embassy representatives,” he asserted.

Author and investigative journalist, Daniel Estulin, who has interviewed Bout on numerous occasions claims the latter stands no chance of winning his case if extradited to the US.

“The US has spent 15 years [trying to catch Bout.] They spent two-and-a-half years trying to win the extradition case,” Estulin explained.

If Bout were to win the case in the US when “everything is against him,” it would make America a “laughing stock of the entire world,” Estulin said.

Brian Johnson-Thomas, a former arms trafficking expert for the UN Security Council, says the reason the US have now dropped the money laundering charges maybe because then they can concentrate purely on the sting operation, in which Viktor Bout is alleged to have agreed to supply weapons to the FARC.

“If that happens, then the court in America may also be directed not to look at anything other than the sting operation, so they will not be able to bring into open court the many times when Viktor was of some service to the Pentagon and whoever else,” Brian Johnson-Thomas said.

Bout was arrested in Bangkok two-and-a-half years ago in a sting operation by US law enforcers and has been in prison ever since. He has repeatedly denied all charges against him.