A lawyer of suspected Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout said on Wednesday that his client never intended to sell weapons to Colombian rebels.
The trial against Bout started on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. It is expected to continue for three weeks.
“The simple and very profound truth is that Viktor Bout never wanted, never intended and never was going to sell arms,” Bout’s lawyer, Albert Dayan, told a 12-person jury panel.
Dayan said Bout, who used to be in the air cargo business, was trying to sell two planes, not weapons, when he discussed an arms deal in Thailand with two undercover U.S. agents who posed as South American FARC revolutionaries.
The prosecution insists that Bout, 44, had allegedly agreed to sell at least 100 surface-to-air missiles, 20,000 AK-47s, and 10 million rounds of ammunition to kill Americans.
“Viktor Bout was given the opportunity to put millions of dollars of weapons [into the hands of] terrorists in order to kill Americans,” prosecutor Brendan McGuire said in his opening statement on Wednesday. “He jumped at the opportunity.”
Bout, who was arrested in a U.S. sting operation in Thailand in 2008 and extradited to the U.S. in November 2010, denies all the charges against him. He could face anything from 25 years to life in prison if convicted.