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Russia to seek repatriation of alleged arms dealer Bout

RIA Novosti

14:26 20/08/2010

YEREVAN, August 20 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will seek the repatriation of Russian businessman Viktor Bout, due to be extradited from Thailand to the United States on arms trafficking charges, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday.

"We were in contact with his [Bout's] lawyers and I assure you we will continue to do everything we can to repatriate Bout," Lavrov said.

Former Russian army officer, Viktor Bout, 44, was arrested in Thailand in March 2008 under a request from the United States, which accuses him of illegally trading arms. He has repeatedly denied the accusations.

In August 2009, the Bangkok Criminal Court ruled in Bout's favor, denying the U.S. extradition request due to a lack of evidence and because it believed the case to be politically motivated. However, the United States appealed the ruling and filed new charges against him.

The Thai appeals court ruled on Friday to extradite Bout to the United States.

Lavrov called Friday's verdict illegal and politically motivated.

"We regret the, in my opinion, illegal and politically motivated decision, made today by the Thai appeals court," Lavrov said. "According to the information we have, the decision was made under pressure from an outside source."

The United States brought new charges against Bout on Friday just hours before the court made its final decision.

According to the new extradition request, Bout and his former business partner, U.S. citizen Richard Chichakli, are accused of money laundering, telegraph and internet-mediated money transfer fraud, and violating the U.S. president's sanctions against them.

In accordance with Thai law and an extradition agreement between Thailand and the United States, Bout must be handed over to the U.S. side within three months after the announcement of the sentence.

However, Bout's lawyer said that the new charges could prevent the extradition as a new case may have to be opened in Thailand.

He said he respected the court's decision but would petition the Thai government to block the extradition.

Bout's wife, Alla, told Reuters the Thai authorities had caved in to U.S. pressure.

"This is a result of constant pressure from the U.S. government," she said. "This is the most unfair decision because the initial court already said it's a political case."

The Court of Appeal has the final say on extradition cases in Thailand. Its decisions are not subject to further appeal.

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