AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
MOSCOW: Convicted Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout staged a dramatic teleconference with Moscow reporters from his US prison today, pleading with his home country not to give up on his case.
The man who inspired the arms dealer played by Nicolas Cage in the film Lord of War and was dubbed the “Merchant of Death” last week was sentenced to 25 years after being found guilty of conspiring to sell arms to anti-US guerrillas in Colombia.
US investigators believe the 45-year-old may have become the world’s most prolific illicit arms trafficker in a career that began in the 1990s in Africa and then reportedly continued in other war-torn corners of the world.
But Bout said by telephone from his Brooklyn jail that he still held out hope for returning home soon. “I believe that if Russia gets to the bottom of what happened and makes an announcement that is confident and tough, I can return to Russia very quickly,” Bout said.
He also asked Russian lawmakers to file a lawsuit in an international court against the United States for staging the trial and Thailand for extraditing him in 2010 after initially refusing to do so.
“That is my great hope,” he said, without specifying which global court he expected to hear his case. The unusual teleconference involved a video link between Moscow and a New York City studio from which his wife Alla and lawyers arranged a direct five-minute phone conversation with Bout in his Brooklyn prison.
Bout has always denied being an arms dealer and identifies himself as a private air transporter instead.
Russia has denounced the case and accused the US justice system of carrying out a “clear political order.”
Bout called the proceedings against him “not a trial but an inquisition” and lamented that he has no connections with Russia’s political elite, something he is frequently accused of by the media.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have any connections, not with the Kremlin,” he said during his brief conference with journalists.