Russian businessman Viktor Bout has been brought before a US judge for the first time, just one day after being extradited from Thailand. He will go on trial on four charges, including supporting terrorists.
In the courtroom, Viktor Bout, dubbed the “Merchant of Death” in the United States, pleaded not guilty to all allegations.
In the course of a brief news conference on Wednesday, US prosecutors detailed the charges brought against the Russian citizen.
“Viktor Bout now stands charged in this district, the Southern District of New York, with four charges,” said Preet Bharara, US Attorney for Southern District of New York. “One: conspiring to kill United States’ nationals. Two: conspiring to kill United States officers and employees. Three: conspiring to use and acquire anti-aircraft missiles and four: conspiring to provide material support to the FARC.”
A meeting arranged between Russian diplomats and Bout is expected to take place on Wednesday evening.
Two Russian diplomats, who visited Bout at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York on Wednesday, say he has expressed a desire to seek additional assistance from outside counsel. Bout has also reportedly asked for assistance in relocating his wife Alla Bout to New York; she has spent the last two years along with Bout in Bangkok.
Andrey Yushmanov, the Russian Consul General in New York who visited Bout, said Bout claimed that US officials attempted to force a confession from him during a flight to New York.
“According to Viktor Bout, during the extradition the Americans attempted to convince him to make a confession of the crimes he had never committed, promising some kind of privileges in return,” Yushmanov said. “Bout rejected these offers.”
Meanwhile, Viktor Mizin of the Moscow University of International Relations, says there were there no serious grounds for Viktor Bout’s extradition to the United States.
“Nobody proved that he was actually involved in all these dirty dealings in which he is accused by the American side,” he said. “It is all based only on some kind of hearsay, some kind of rumors which, of course, are not a solid ground for whisking away an innocent man from the other country and bringing him to the United States.”