Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Extradited 'arms dealer' Viktor Bout arrives in US

Source: BBC News

Mr Bout was extradited from Thailand under tight security
Alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout has arrived in New York, following his extradition from Thailand and a diplomatic row with Russia.

US Attorney General Eric Holder said the extradition was a "victory for law and order" saying Mr Bout had been "a source of concern around the world".

Russia described the extradition as a "blatant injustice", the result of extreme American pressure on Thailand.

Mr Bout, who denies all charges, will appear at a US court on Wednesday.

The former Russian air force officer, 43, has been accused of trying to sell arms to Colombian rebels and supplying weapons that fuelled conflicts in Africa and the Middle East.

Russian support

Mr Bout - dubbed the "Merchant of Death" by his critics - was arrested in Bangkok in 2008 in a US-led operation.

Russia had been demanding Viktor Bout's immediate release and return to Moscow from the moment he was caught by FBI agents in a sting-operation in Bangkok two years ago.

It has now lost that battle and has reacted furiously... But its strong words may be driven by much more than a simple desire to help Mr Bout as a Russian citizen.

Well-placed sources in Moscow have told the BBC Mr Bout could not have operated what is alleged to have been a massive illegal arms dealing business without support from many different parts of the Russian state... in particular the secret services.

Many suspect Mr Bout is himself an intelligence officer or at least closely connected with the intelligence agencies here.

A former British minister who had access to secret files while in office has alleged that Mr Bout's connections go to very senior levels of the Russian government.

If these allegations are correct, then Mr Bout's extradition to the US will be very worrying because highly sensitive information could be handed over to the Americans.

Following a long legal battle, Thailand eventually backed the US request for his extradition.

He was taken to Bangkok airport on Tuesday in handcuffs, escorted by armed police officers and with snipers deployed along the route.

If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

But Mr Bout denies being, or ever having been, an arms dealer - and Moscow also insists he is innocent.

"Viktor Bout has been indicted in the United States, but his alleged arms trafficking activity and support of armed conflicts in Africa has been a cause of concern around the world," said US Attorney General Holder in a statement.

"His extradition is a victory for the rule of law worldwide."

Mr Bout is thought to have knowledge of Russia's military and intelligence operations, and Russian diplomats fear the revelations he might make in open court, correspondents say.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated Russia's belief that the US pursuit of Mr Bout was politically motivated, and said Russia would use all legal means to support him.

"Contrary to two rulings by a Thai criminal court which concluded that Viktor Bout's guilt was not proven, he has still - by a decision of the Thai government - been extradited to the United States," Mr Lavrov told Rossiya TV on Tuesday.

"I consider this to be unprecedented political pressure on the judicial process and on the government of Thailand. This whole story is an example of blatant injustice. We, as a state, will continue to render all necessary assistance to Viktor Bout as a Russian citizen."

Mr Bout's wife Alla rushed to the prison to see him - but found she was too late Mr Bout's wife, Alla Bout, appeared outside the prison in an apparent attempt to see her husband before he left - but she was too late. She insisted there was "every ground" to win the case in court.

A Russian embassy official told the BBC that the Russian consul had also been unable to see Mr Bout.

Legal wrangling

Viktor Bout first came to prominence a decade ago when he was described in a United Nations report as "a well-known supplier of embargoed non-state actors" - the UN's way of describing an arms supplier to rebels.

Dubbed the Merchant of Death by a British politician, he was alleged to have supplied arms to Angola, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But he is also suspected of having used his network of air freight companies to supply weapons, in the early 1990s, to Afghanistan and Bosnia.

A website that describes itself as "The official site of Viktor A Bout" says he is a businessman with an undying love for aviation and an eternal drive to succeed.

The website says he started his career in the army of the former Soviet Union - and it was when the Soviet Union collapsed that he started buying up surplus Antonov and Ilyushin cargo planes.

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Inside Liberia with Bernard Gbayee Goah

Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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