New NYT story on Viktor Bout

There are some interesting tidbits in this NYT story on Viktor Bout that ran Aug. 29: For Arms Sales Suspect, Secrets Are Bargaining Chips:

Bout-in_cell.jpg

The lede:

WASHINGTON — Accused of a 15-year run as one of the world’s biggest arms traffickers, Viktor Bout is thought to be a consummate deal maker.

Now his future may hang on whether he can strike one last bargain: trading what American officials believe is his vast insider’s knowledge of global criminal networks in exchange for not spending the rest of his life in a federal prison.

There’s this, about his weight loss, previously noted here:

Mr. Bout, who has lost about 70 pounds while imprisoned in Thailand, has shown no inclination to cooperate with investigators.

And we learn that Bout has his own Web site, Victorbout.com, which argues that he is a legitimate businessman:

On his Web site he calls himself “a born salesman with undying love for aviation and eternal drive to succeed.

And:

Rumors in Bangkok have suggested that the Russians and the Americans engaged in a bidding war over the American extradition request, with Russia offering Thailand cut-rate oil and Americans offering military hardware.

Both sides have denied such bargaining. Thai officials say they must process a second United States request for extradition on a separate indictment for money laundering before Mr. Bout can be put aboard the American jet that arrived last week to pick him up.

And:

Mr. Bout developed ties with such notorious figures Charles Taylor of Liberia, bedded down next to his plane in African war zones and sometimes took payment in diamonds, bringing his own gemologist to assess the stones.

And:

Mr. Wolosky said he and his colleagues were astonished to learn from later news reports that Mr. Bout’s companies were used as subcontractors by the American military to deliver supplies to Iraq in 2003 and 2004, earning about $60 million, by Mr. Farah’s estimate.

And finally:

In 2007, Mr. Braun, then the D.E.A. operations chief, said he was asked by Bush administration officials about prosecuting Mr. Bout. The agency lured him into a trap in which the agency said he agreed to sell surface-to-air missiles and other military gear to agency informants posing as FARC operatives.

At a meeting in a Bangkok hotel in March 2008, according to court records, Mr. Bout scribbled price estimates and doodled an aircraft, telling his ostensible customers “that the United States was also his enemy.”

“It’s not, uh, business,” Mr. Bout said on tape, the records say. “It’s my fight.”

(All emphasis mine.)

(Via @tri26)

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Hi. I'm Newley Purnell. I cover technology and business for The Wall Street Journal. I use this site to share my stories and often blog about the books I'm reading, tech trends, sports, travel, and our dog Ginger. For updates, get my weekly email newsletter.

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