Michael J. Garcia, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Michele M. Leonhart, the acting administrator of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), announced today the unsealing of charges against Viktor Bout, an international arms dealer, and his associate Andrew Smulian for conspiring to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to the Colombia-based FARC terrorist group. Bout was arrested by Thai authorities in Bangkok.
According to the complaint:
Between November 2007 and February 2008, Bout and Smulian agreed to sell to the FARC millions of dollars worth of weapons, including surface-to-air missile systems (SAMs) and armor-piercing rocket launchers. During a series of recorded telephone calls and e-mails, Bout and Smulian agreed to sell the weapons to two confidential sources working with the DEA, who held themselves out as FARC representatives acquiring these weapons for the FARC for use in Colombia.
In addition, during a series of consensually recorded meetings in Romania, Smulian advised the sources, among other things, that: (1) Bout had 100 SAMs available immediately; (2) Bout could also provide helicopters and armor-piercing rocket launchers; (3) Bout could arrange to have a flight crew airdrop the weapons into Colombian territory using combat parachutes; and (4) Bout and Smulian would charge the sources $5 million to transport the weapons. During one of the meetings with the sources, Smulian provided one of the sources with a digital memory stick that contained an article about Bout and documents containing photographs and specifications for the SAMs and armor-piercing rocket launchers that Smulian had previously said Bout could provide.
In between his meetings with the sources, Smulian spoke to Bout over a cell phone provided to him by one of the sources at the direction of the DEA. These conversations between Smulian and Bout were legally intercepted by foreign authorities. During one of these conversations, Bout and Smulian discussed the $5 million delivery fee for the weapons. Bout also told Smulian, in coded language, that the weapons requested by the sources were ready to be delivered. Subsequent to these phone calls with Smulian, Bout engaged in multiple recorded phone calls with one of the sources during which they arranged the March 6 meeting in Bangkok where Bout was arrested.
Bout and Smulian are charged with conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization. If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of 15 years' imprisonment.
The U.S. plans to pursue the extradition of Bout from Thailand.
"Viktor Bout and Andrew Smulian agreed to arm terrorists with high-powered weapons that have fueled some of the most violent conflicts in recent memory," said U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garcia. "Today, they face charges in the United States for agreeing to provide weapons to a terrorist organization that has threatened, and continues to threaten, American interests."
"DEA and our partners now have this terrorist supporter in custody where he can no longer ply his deadly trade," said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. "This arms trafficker was poised to arm a narco-terrorist organization, but he now faces justice in the United States."
Assistant United States Attorneys Anjan Sahni and Brendan R. McGuire are in charge of the prosecutions.