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Thai appeals court rules to extradite Russian arms dealer to U.S.

RIA Novosti

12:18 20/08/2010

BANGKOK, August 20 (RIA Novosti) - The Thai appeals court ruled on Friday to extradite Russian businessman Viktor Bout to the United States on arms smuggling and other charges.

Bout said he is ready to prove his innocence in front of a U.S. court.

"Well, now we'll just go to a U.S. court and win there instead," Bout told RIA Novosti after the court had given its ruling.

Former Russian army officer Viktor Bout, 44, was arrested 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 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.

"By law, extradition should be carried out within three months. However, according to the same law, extradition of a subject, who is being investigated on different charges in Thailand, cannot take place until the case is complete," Bout's lawyer Lak Nittiwattanawichan said.

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

"The defense believes Bout will not be safe and is not guaranteed a fair trial in the United States," Lak was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Bout's wife, Alla, said 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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