Note: We are to believe that the alleged Mr. Bout and others alleged
to be in the international arms trade work everywhere except Mexico
and Latin America? Remember, there almost always one or more
Trial of Accused Arms Dealer Underway in New York
By SEBASTIAN SMITH, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Published: 11 Oct 2011 14:41
NEW YORK - Jury selection was completed Oct. 11 in the trial of
Viktor Bout, the accused Russian arms dealer described by a United
States official as "one of the most dangerous men" in the world.
The former Soviet military officer is accused of attempting to sell a
huge arsenal including hundreds of surface-to-air missiles to U.S.
agents in Thailand posing as members of Colombia's FARC leftist
U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin oversaw jury selection
from a pool of about 80 prospective jurors - a crush of candidates so
large that reporters were not initially allowed in to cover the
process because of space restrictions, court officials said.
The lead prosecutor and Bout's attorney were expected to make their
opening arguments Oct. 12, said Stephanie Cirkovich, a spokeswoman
for the court in Manhattan.
Throughout jury selection, Bout's wife and daughter sat in the back
of the wood-paneled courtroom as Sheindlin gave jurors instructions
on a case that sounds like the plot of a thriller, with references to
powerful weapons, FARC, and faraway locales including Russia, Africa
The mustachioed Russian has pleaded not guilty. Although his New York
legal team concedes he did run a fleet of cargo planes, he has
insisted he never sold or brokered so much as a single bullet.
He faces up to life in prison if convicted.
Thinner and more pale than at the time of his 2008 arrest in
Thailand, Bout wore a dark suit, white shirt and blue tie. It was the
first time he has been seen in his own clothes, rather than prison
garb, since he was extradited to the United States in 2010.
He remained stone-faced through most of the proceedings, occasionally
turning to look at the jury pool and to nod and signal to his wife
Defense lawyers and Scheindlin have expressed concern that Bout may
be so notorious and his alleged crimes so outlandish that it may be
difficult to ensure an impartial jury.
The concern prompted the judge to take the highly unusual decision to
make jurors sign a statement swearing they will abstain from
researching Bout's case while serving. That instruction is given in
every trial to prevent jurors from adding their own knowledge of a
case to what's presented in court, but it is nearly always made orally.
Although Bout was the most discreet of figures in the shady transport
business he admits he commanded in Africa, his notoriety has grown
since to near legendary levels.
A violence-filled movie "Lord of War," starring Hollywood actor
Nicholas Cage, was inspired by Bout's life, while the chief U.S. Drug
Enforcement Agency agent who organized the sting in Thailand told CBS
that the defendant is "one of the most dangerous men on the face of
Although they represent only a small percentage of all his alleged
dealings, the charges against Bout in New York are hair-raising.
According to the U.S. government, Bout told U.S. agents he mistakenly
believed to be FARC representatives that he could deliver 700 anti-
aircraft missiles, 5,000 assault rifles and millions of rounds of
ammunition, in addition to land mines and explosives.
The weapons were supposedly being sought to enable the FARC to down
American military helicopters operating in Colombia, opening Bout to
charges that he conspired to aid a U.S.-designated terrorist group
and to kill U.S. personnel.
Bout's more extended resume - which is not directly at issue in the
trial - allegedly includes pouring weapons into wars in Afghanistan,
Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra
Leone and Sudan.
"Those Russian aircraft were built like flying dump trucks. He could
move this stuff and drop it with pinpoint accuracy to any desert, to
any jungle, to any other remote place in the world. Right into the
hands of what I refer to as the potpourri of global scum," DEA agent
Michael Braun told CBS.
The judge on Oct. 11 told prospective jurors they would hear
testimony about "armor-piercing rocket launchers, AK47 firearms … and
ultra-light airplanes that may be fitted with grenades," Scheindlin
"You will hear that many years ago Mr. Bout may have been involved in
arms trafficking and/or arms transportation in Africa and that
activity did not violate U.S. laws."
Scheindlin also noted that prosecution witnesses would include a paid
informant and a former comrade of Bout who pleaded guilty and was
cooperating with the U.S. government.
One key prosecution witness is a former operative of the South
African military during the apartheid regime who was caught on tape
boasting that he'd "mowed down" blacks.
The trial is expected to run at least through late October.