Holder considers releasing ‘Merchant of Death’ arms trafficker to Russians

Zach Gorelick Contributor
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Attorney General Eric Holder told Russian news outlets that the U.S. may return convicted arms dealer and terrorist Viktor Bout, the infamous “Merchant of Death,” to Russia to serve out the remainder of his 25-year prison term related to his terrorism conviction in the United States.

In 2010 Holder called Bout “one of the world’s most prolific arms traffickers.” He has also labeled the Russian “a source of concern around the globe for decades.” But Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported that Holder moderated his tone from those prior statements.

Bout, 45, was arrested in Bangkok in 2008 and extradited to the United States. He was found guilty in 2010 of arms smuggling conspiracy and sentenced to 25 years in prison and five years of supervised release. Additionally, he was fined $15 million for his role in conspiring to sell artillery and missiles to the terrorist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. After spending more than a year in solitary confinement, Bout was transferred to a prison in Brooklyn where he awaits another move, to a maximum security prison in Colorado.

The Russian government has contested Bout’s trial, calling the evidence “too thin to make far-reaching accusations.”

In 2010, the Daily Beast alleged ties between Bout and the Russian intelligence service. The 2005 film “Lord of War” is allegedly based on Bout’s experience as a veteran arms dealer with major roles in numerous international conflicts.

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