The long-awaited trial has begun in New York of accused Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, accused of conspiracy to kill US nationals and providing help to a terrorist group. He risks 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
US agents posed as members of the Colombian FARC rebels in 2008, meeting Bout in Thailand to buy a vast arsenal of weapons before arresting him, and then getting him extradited.
Bout claims he was suspicious all along, and was just trying to sell them cargo planes. However, claiming he is just a businessman may not cut any ice with the jury.
“The more he identifies himself as a professional arms dealer, the more the jury is going to lack sympathy with him. That is, it’s not really effective with the jury to say ‘I’m one of the biggest arms dealers in the world and I can tell you all about corrupt activities behind the scenes in both the United States and Russia’. That may be very interesting, but it’s not going to be very effective with the jury who probably thinks this guy deserves to be behind bars,” says John C. Coffee, Professor at Columbia Law School.
Bout certainly has many secrets and some people in both America and Russia may be nervous about what he reveals of his alleged global 20 years of arms dealing.