Thai court ruling sets back extradition of alleged arms dealer
Oct 4, 2010, 12:10 GMT
Bangkok - Thailand's Appeals Court Monday rejected a move to drop additional criminal charges against alleged Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, dealing a blow to United States' efforts to extradite him.
The reputed international arms dealer, who was arrested in Bangkok in 2008, has been at the centre of a diplomatic tug-of-war between the Russian government and US prosecutors who believe he holds many secrets to the illicit weapons business.
His extradition to the US seemed likely when a Thai Appeals Court reversed a lower court ruling in August, clearing the way for him to stand trial in the US.
But the filing of additional charges of money laundering and wire fraud by a US court bumped the extradition process off track.
The US then requested that those charges be dropped in order to facilitate Bout's extradition, but the Thai Appeals Court Monday rejected the motion.
'Today's result will be beneficial to Viktor Bout,' the Russian's lawyer, Lak Nithiwatanawichan, told reporters after the ruling.
The attorney said any delay in the proceedings, including a lengthy trial in Thailand, would benefit his client. He expressed confidence that Bout would eventually be cleared of all charges.
'We have 17 witnesses, but the prosecution has no witnesses,' Lak said.
Bout, 43, a former Soviet air force officer, denied allegations that he supplied illegal arms to buyers in Africa, South America and the Middle East.
His arrest climaxed a sting operation by US agents posing as weapons buyers for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which the US government has classified as a terrorist organization.
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