A US judge has sentenced Russian businessman Viktor Bout to 25 years behind bars – the mandatory minimum for such charges. His defense plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.
In addition to his prison term, Judge Scheindlin sentenced Bout to five years of supervised release. She also ordered him to forfeit US $15 million and immediately pay a US $400 special assessment fee.
The prosecutors had been calling for a life sentence for Bout. However, the judge said there was no proof he had been looking to deal with terrorist groups or kill Americans. She also said Bout had not been an active arms dealer since 2003.
The 25-year imprisonment that Viktor Bout has been sentenced to is in connection with the third count – the acquisition and use of anti-aircraft weapons.
Bout’s lawyers now have 14 calendar days to file an appeal. It may then take The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit about one year to review it. The attorney has also requested that the judge keeps Viktor Bout in the tri-state area. The judge recommended that the businessman would remain in general population and not in a solitary confinement.
Bout has told a judge at his New York sentencing on Thursday he is “not guilty” and the allegations against him are lies. Earlier, he called the trial “hypocritical” and an example of “double standards.”
At one point during sentencing, which lasted for over an hour, the prosecutor said that Viktor Bout had agreed to sell weapons to kill Americans, to which Bout shouted out, “It’s a lie!” He told the judge he “never intended to kill anyone” and said, “God knows this truth.”
Addressing the court for the first time and speaking through an interpreter, Bout said that he had never intended to kill anyone or sell arms to anyone and he said the truth was known to “those people” at which point he turned around and pointed at the DEA agents who had testified against him. That is according to RT correspondent Marina Portnaya, who attended the sentencing hearing.
Bout also added that the people who brought the allegations against him would have to raise their children knowing the truth. He turned around and pointed at the agents again and said, “Let God forgive you. You will have to answer to him not to me.”
At the same time, Bout said he was grateful to those who treated him with respect in the US, as well as to his lawyer, Albert Dayan.
Viktor Bout’s spouse, Alla Bout, said she expected this sentence and praised the judge.
“I expected the sentence, because I believe the judge is very intelligent, very professional. It’s an acknowledgement of the invalidity of the accusations made by the prosecutors. I think if the judge was not constrained by the law, she would have chosen to close the case,” she told journalists outside the court building.
On November 2, 2011, the former Soviet military officer was found guilty of all charges pressed against him. He was convicted of conspiracy to kill US nationals, including military officers and employees, conspiring to use anti-aircraft missiles and selling millions of dollars’ worth of weapons to the Colombian rebel group FARC. The Revolutionary Armed Force of Colombia is considered a terror group by the United States.
Bout’s Russian lawyer Viktor Borobin said that the US justice system portrayed the businessman as an enemy of the American people. “He is being viewed not as a man who went wrong and not even as a transporter but as a man who allegedly traded arms designed to kill Americans,” Burobin told Interfax news agency.
In an interview with Voice of Russia Bout described himself as “a trophy” for the US.
“I am like a hunted deer that they killed and now…want to take a picture like I’m some wild animal and now they caught me and they’re going to put me in their kitchen and show their kids and their grandkids and say, ‘Oh, we hunted that animal,’” he is quoted as saying.
Borobin earlier said that Bout’s conviction would not be the end of the case. However, verdicts handed down by jury are rarely canceled in the US. After all appeal procedures are followed, Russia could ask the US to extradite Bout so he could serve his sentence there, he added.
This courtroom sketch by Shirley Shepard shows Viktor Bout (in white) standing before Federal Judge Shira A. Scheindlin during his sentencing on April 5, 2012 in New York (AFP Photo)
US ‘manufactured the pulling of Bout into its jurisdiction’
US lawyer Douglas McNabb says America used every legal trick in the book to get its way in the Bout case.
“The US government takes a very aggressive approach extraterritorially,” he told RT. “If someone is in London and wire-transfers a sum of money to an individual in Berlin, unbeknownst to them the money pings through Citibank in New York. That pinging, that touching of US jurisdiction is sufficient for the United States government to charge both of those individuals with money-laundering. They are both facing extradition proceedings.”
When the American government decided they wanted Viktor Bout for whatever reason, McNabb went on to explain, they were able to “manufacture… the jurisdiction – not illegally.” With this form of entrapment, they were able “to pull Mr. Bout into the jurisdiction of the US court” and place him in extradition proceedings through Thailand’s legal system.
“They had him extradited to the United States and thus we see the outcome of the jury decision,” Douglas McNabb continued.
Alla Bout earlier told RT that nobody wanted her husband until the US authorities decided they did.
“It was a long period of eight years, from 2001 to 2008, and had there been any proof that he was really involved in some kind of illegal activities, the UN, Russia and Interpol would have certainly known about it and would have done something,” she said. “But in reality, nobody did anything – nobody was really looking for Viktor… He wasn’t hiding. He was openly living in Russia under his real name.”
Viktor Bout was arrested in Thailand in 2008 on an arrest warrant issued by the American government and was extradited to the US in November 2010.