- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 5, 2009

Newly obtained documents prepared by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) describe an elaborate sting operation to capture purported weapons trafficker Viktor Bout in Bangkok and America’s current appeal to extradite him to New York.

However, the documents, made public recently, do not confirm that Mr. Bout had access to the weapons or where the arms and ammunition were located.

Mr. Bout, a Russian citizen, has been dubbed the “Merchant of Death” for his long years as a purported international weapons dealer involved in both legal and illegal transfers.

The U.S. indictment says that when Mr. Bout was in Bangkok last year, he “agreed to provide the FARC [Colombian rebels] with millions of dollars’ worth of weapons to be used, among other things, to kill nationals of the United States in Colombia,” including “officers and employees of the United States” on “official duties.”

U.S. Deputy Attorney General David Ogden said in Bangkok last month that he told Thai officials Mr. Bout “stands charged with extremely serious crimes against Americans.”

The case against Mr. Bout appeared to fall apart in August when Bangkok’s Criminal Court dropped all charges against him.

The Thai judge said Bangkok “does not have the authority to punish actions done by foreigners against other foreigners in another country.”

The newly released documents are from America’s appeal, which is winding its way through Thailand’s justice system.

The documents do not deal with the previous judge’s decision about Thai jurisdiction over foreigners and instead focus on efforts to have Mr. Bout extradited to the U.S.

Mr. Bout, 42, was arrested in March 2008 in a Bangkok hotel during a U.S.-led sting operation and remains incarcerated in a Bangkok prison.

He has denied all charges of wrongdoing.

The DEA’s “rebuttal affidavit” and “evidence” were posted online in mid-October by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), a Washington-based group founded in 1945 by scientists who developed the world’s first atomic bombs.

“Documents provided to the Federation of American Scientists, by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, provide additional details about the case against alleged arms trafficker Viktor Bout, but many important questions remain — publicly — unanswered,” FAS says on its Web page.

In Washington, the DEA confirmed the authenticity of the documents but declined further comment.

The scientists appeared concerned about sophisticated weapons reportedly mentioned by Mr. Bout and their possible availability on the international black market.

The documents include photocopies of items purportedly seized from Mr. Bout in Bangkok when he was arrested.

“Exhibit 1” in the Bout Rebuttal Affidavit in Support of Extradition, dated Feb. 17, 2009, is an e-mail from “Agregatum Mobile” through gmail.com, to “Amigo” — also known as “bogotazo32” at yahoo.com — which reads:

“Buenos Dias! This is email we can use for communication Best Regards Friend of Andrew.”

The DEA said “records maintained by the e-mail service provider of the gmail.com email address” indicated it was actually from Mr. Bout to a U.S.-paid DEA “confidential source” whom Mr. Bout trusted.

Transcripts of written, telephone and verbal communications appear vital to the U.S. case against Mr. Bout.

In sworn affidavits, the DEA describes nicknames, coded language, wiretapped phone conversations and furtive e-mails to and from Andrew Smulian and others as secretive messages about Mr. Bout’s supposed intentions in Bangkok.

Mr. Smulian was later jailed in the United States after his arrest on charges of being Mr. Bout’s colleague in crime.

The documents include “pamphlets on Soviet-era cargo planes that Bout, in Bangkok, allegedly recommended for delivering weapons to the FARC” and “a map of South America that Bout reportedly used in discussions about the locations of American radar stations.”

An intriguing document, Exhibit 5, is described by the DEA as “notes handwritten by Bout during the meeting regarding the details of the weapons deal” in Bangkok.

“The notes include short-hand references to various weapons, including ‘AA’ or anti-aircraft, believed to be a reference to Igla missiles; ‘AK-47’ [assault rifles]; ‘UAV’ unmanned aerial vehicle; 10,000,000 ‘7,62 x 54’ ammunition used in Russian Dragunov sniper rifles and PKM machine guns; RPG-7 and RPG-22 rocket launchers; and ‘AG-17,’ presumably a reference to the AGS-17 30mm automatic grenade launcher,” the FAS said.

“Some of the notes are more cryptic, including references to 500 ‘60 mm’, 200 ‘82 mm’ and 40 ‘120 mm.’ Presumably, these are references to mortars since 60mm, 82mm and 120mm are all common calibers for mortar bombs,” Federation said.

The DEA said it also seized a computer memory stick from Mr. Bout that contained technical military documents describing a missile.

“It appears that missile on offer was the AT-4 Spigot, a wire-guided Russian missile system that has a maximum range of 2,000-2,500 meters and can penetrate up to 400-460mm of armor, depending on the type of missile used,” FAS said.

FAS said the documents it received from the case United States of America v. Viktor Bout do not confirm whether Mr. Bout or his colleague “actually had access to the weapons that they allegedly promised to deliver to the FARC,” which Washington considers a terrorist group.

“This question is particularly important in regards to the 100 shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles,” which can shoot down military and commercial planes, the group said.

It also was unclear where the weapons were located, despite claims some were available in Bulgaria, the federation said.

Mr. Bout, a Russian citizen, has been dubbed the “Merchant of Death” for his long years as a purported international weapons dealer involved in both legal and illegal transfers.

• Richard S. Ehrlich can be reached at rehrlich@washingtontimes.com.

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