Viktor Bout (55), a Russian prisoner dubbed the Merchant of Death, has been released by the United States. In return, Russia released American basketball star Brittney Griner. Photo/Drug Enforcement Administration
Moscow frees American basketball star; Britney Griner. Instead, Washington freed Viktor Bout, the arms dealer dubbed the “Death Merchant.” [Pedagang Maut]”.
Viktor Bout, 55, was due to serve 25 years in an Illinois prison after being found guilty of multiple felonies by a US court.
The charges ranged from conspiring to kill Americans, acquiring and exporting anti-aircraft missiles, and supplying materials to support terrorist organizations.
During his two-decade criminal career, Bout is believed to have assisted insurgents and legitimate governments in various conflict zones, including Afghanistan, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
But under a deal to secure a prisoner swap on Thursday, the sentence of one of the world’s most notorious arms dealers was commuted to 10 years already served.
Bout, who earned nicknames such as “death dealer” and “anti-sanctions,” was born in Dushanbe, the capital of modern Tajikistan, then part of the Soviet Union.
He was educated and built a career in the Soviet military system and is believed to be fluent in six languages, including Arabic, Farsi and Esperanto.
Bout took advantage of the collapse of the Soviet aviation industry to purchase three Antonov cargo planes which he then chartered for long-haul flights from Moscow. At least that’s his confession The New York Times in a 2003 interview.