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Moscow reiterates pledge to protect Russian arms dealer's rights

RIA Novosti


MOSCOW, February 19 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow will take further steps to protect the rights and interests of Russian businessman and alleged arms dealer Viktor Bout facing new charges in the United States, the Foreign Ministry's spokesman said on Friday.

The Southern District of the New York Court found Bout, nicknamed the "Merchant of Death," and his alleged associate Richard Chichakli guilty on Wednesday of violating the 1995 International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) for concealing millions in arms sales profits.

"We have noticed media reports saying that the United States has brought a number of new charges against our citizen... We currently have no official information on the essence of the charges at hand," Andrei Nesterenko said.

The new indictment charges Bout with supplying two Boeing planes to Liberia's former president Charles Taylor in 2004, bypassing UN sanctions and IEEPA. As much as $1.7 million had been transferred for the delivery which was finally blocked by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The U.S. court also accused Bout and Chichakli of conspiracy, money laundering and wire fraud.

The Russian diplomat pledged Moscow would continue taking further steps to protect Bout's legal rights and interests in the developments.

"We still proceed from the fact that our citizen's guilt has not been proven... Our embassy in Bangkok is closely watching the situation around the event," Nesterenko said.

In an interview with RIA Novosti on Thursday, Bout expressed hope that common sense would take the upper hand. "It has become even more obvious that my case is of a political character," he said.

"I am not a U.S. citizen, and I have never been there. Everything was done to submit [another] formal request for my extradition," Bout said in another statement on Friday.

"I expect the U.S. authorities next to announce sanctions against me and Chichakli over the illegal use of air and water on Earth," he added.

Former Russian army officer Bout, 42, remains in custody in a Thai jail after the Bangkok Criminal Court refused in August to extradite him to the United States, where he is facing four terrorism-related charges and a possible life sentence. He has repeatedly denied the accusations.

U.S. prosecutors said they would now seek Bout's extradition from Thailand again in light of the new charges.

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