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Reputed arms dealer Viktor Bout’s extradition stalled by Thai ruling
The head of a lucrative air transport empire, Bout long evaded U.N. and U.S. sanctions aimed at blocking his financial activities and restricting his travel. He has denied any involvement in illicit activities and said he ran a legitimate business.
The 2005 movie “Lord of War” starring Nicolas Cage is loosely based on Bout’s life. He purportedly supplied weapons that fueled civil wars in South America, the Middle East and Africa, with clients including Liberia’s Charles Taylor, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and both sides of the civil war in Angola.
Bout asserted his claims of innocence in a letter to the Thai Parliament, distributed to reporters Monday by his wife.
“I have never sold weapons to anybody,” Bout said in the letter, which called for a parliamentary investigation to review his case. “It has become apparent to me that the Appeals Court decision to extradite me was taken under political pressure.”
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said last week he would have the final say in the politically sensitive case, once it works its way through the courts.
Associated Press Writers Jocelyn Gecker in Bangkok and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.
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