Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer known as the Merchant of Death, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being caught in a United States sting operation. While 25 years wasn’t quite the life term that the prosecution had sought for terrorism charges, it was still a notable blow to one of the world’s most notorious arms traffickers, the real Lord of War.
Without the elaborate DEA sting operation designed to catch the notorious arms dealer, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin believes that the evidence provided by the prosecution did not indicate that Viktor was ever intent on harming Americans or so much as committing a crime found punishable in the United States. Judge Scheindlin was quoted having said:
“But for the approach made through this determined sting operation, there is no reason to believe Bout would ever have committed the charged crimes.”
While the Merchant of Death was sentenced to 25 years in prison and a $15 million forfeiture, he seemed content upon receiving his sentence as he not only waved to his wife, but hugged his attorney. Not exactly the reversal and dismissal that his defense lawyer had requested, but then again, it’s significantly better than the life imprisonment government prosecutors demanded.
Bout put in a plea of “not guilty” and told the presiding judge that all of the allegations against him were false.
The real Lord of War, Viktor Bout, was accused by prosecutors of dealing weapons to hotbeds of violence such as Congo, Rwanda, and Angola; ultimately fueling the seemingly perpetual conflicts and bloodshed of these war ravaged countries. Additionally, federal prosecutors claimed he was searching for new hot spots of conflict, such as Libya, before his arrest.
Nicolas Cage played an illegal arms trafficker in the popular film Lord of War back which was released back in 2005. His character was inspired by Bout, the real Lord of War.
Viktor’s defense lawyer, Albert Dayan, wrote a letter to Judge Scheindlin in which he conveyed that the prosecution had been motivation to prosecute his client after the United States was embarrassed by the fact that Bout’s companies had helped deliver supplies to American military contractors who were assisting the U.S. in the Iraq War. Despite United Nations sanctions which were imposed against Bout in 2001 based on his reputation as an illegal arms trafficker, deliveries to American contractors succeeded.
A high ranking minister of Britain’s Foreign Office coined the Merchant of Death nickname after Bout had received attention in the 1990s for having run a fleet of old Soviet-era cargo airplanes into focal points of violence in Africa. The moniker has apparently stuck with Bout as it was included in the United States federal government’s official indictment of Viktor Bout.