Did US Bungle Viktor Bout Extradition?

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The US government would very much like to bring Viktor Bout, the alleged arms dealer who inspired the 2005 Nicolas Cage flick Lord of War, to America for trial. A Thai appeals court ordered Bout’s extradition earlier this month, but the US, anticipating a different ruling, sent new charges to Thailand shortly before the decision came down. The new charges meant that if the court had ruled in Bout’s favor, Thailand would still have had to hold on to him while they considered the new charges. But the US seems to have bungled the situation. If they hadn’t sent the new charges, the road to extradition would be mostly clear in the wake of the appeals court’s ruling. Now the US will have to wait until a court hears the new charges. (Even if the US hadn’t made that miscalculation, Bout still might have been able to avoid extradition: On Monday, his lawyer filed a final appeal to the Thai prime minister in a last-ditch effort to stop Bout from being sent to America.)

Mother Jones has been following Bout’s story for years. In 2007, Laura Rozen related the real-life story of the former Soviet military officer who made millions selling weapons to anyone and everyone who could afford them. In March 2008, after the first reports of Bout’s arrest in Thailand, Bruce Falconer reminded readers that the “Merchant of Death” had been among the first to bring supplies into Baghdad after the city fell to invading American armies in 2003. Later that month, Falconer told the full story of the DEA-led sting that captured Bout and brought us to where we are now. That piece was called “Viktor Bout’s Last Deal.” The next few weeks may determine if it really was.

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