Viktor Bout, the infamous international arms dealer arrested for trying to sell weapons to the Colombian guerrilla group the FARC, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison by a New York judge.
On April 6, Judge Shira Sheindlin handed down a 25 year sentence to Bout for conspiring to kill American citizens and arm the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a designated terrorist organization in the US.
Bout, nicknamed the “Merchant of Death,” was arrested in March 2008 in Thailand after he agreed to sell a vast shipment of arms — which included 100 surface-to-air missiles, 20,000 AK-47 machine guns and five tons of explosives — to two men he thought were FARC commanders. The two were in fact agents of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Prosecutors had been seeking a life sentence for the Russian-born Bout. However, the judge ruled that they had failed to provide evidence he would have committed the crimes if not the target of a DEA sting, reports the LA Times. The judge said that the use of terrorism enhancement charges that had been brought against him were “fundamentally unfair.”
Bout allegedly had previous dealings with the FARC during the late 1990s which likely contributed to the DEA’s decision to use them as bait in the sting operation.
InSight Crime Analysis
The FARC would indeed be keen to reach out to international arms dealers as they seek the one weapon which could reverse their strategic defeat: man-portable air defence systems or MANPADS, which could neutralize the Colombian air force. One of the most successful tactics used against the rebel group has been aerial bombardments, which has killed top commanders and wiped out guerrilla encampments.
Based on emails reportedly recovered from the computer of the slain FARC commander Luis Edgar Devia Silva, alias “Raul Reyes,” the FARC also tried to obtain a $100 million loan from Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in order to buy surface-to-air missiles, though this has never been verified and is unlikely to be confirmed after the death of Gaddafi death last year at the hands of Libyan rebels.
Most FARC weapons currently come from neighboring countries. Ecuador’s government has been accused of harboring FARC-friendly arms trafficking rings in its territory as evidenced by the breakup of FARC munition factories in the country.
Both of the armed forces in Venezuela and Peru, meanwhile, are reported to have supplied arms at some point. A former advisor to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez claimed in 2010 that he had witnessed attempts by that government to supply weapons to the guerrillas, while a Peruvian congressman alleged last year that the country’s military has been selling weaponry, including surface-to-air missiles, to the FARC since 2008.·