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The defence and prosecution sides in the trial of Russian businessman Viktor Bout, accused by US authorities of smuggling weapons

November 01, 2011, 16:48 UTC+3
The defence and prosecution sides in the trial of Russian businessman Viktor Bout, accused by US authorities of smuggling weapons
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NEW YORK, November 1 (Itar-Tass) — The defence and prosecution sides in the trial of Russian businessman Viktor Bout, accused by US authorities of smuggling weapons, made the final statements in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on Monday. The sides used the last chance to convince the jury. The reason for which the Russian citizen who was arrested in Thailand in March 2008 and extradited to the United States in November 2010 is standing trial in New York, is that, among other things, he was charged with “conspiracy to kill US nationals.” The US Attorney’s Office said that Bout allegedly agreed to supply weapons to an international terrorist organisation, knowing that its purpose was to kill US citizens and officials in Colombia. Bout’as lawyer Albert Dayan tried to convince the jury that his client did not intend to kill the Americans and sell arms to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) group. According to him, the only purpose of Viktor Bout’s visit to Bangkok in March 2008 for a meeting with false representatives of FARC the role of which was played by informants of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), was a deal to sell two of his cargo aircraft. The Russian citizen was arrested during that meeting. Prosecutor Anjan Sahni for his part stressed that the prosecution has managed to prove the guilt of the businessman on all four counts. In particular, according to the prosecutor, it should be obvious for the jury that Bout intended to sell arms to FARC with his accomplice - British citizen Andrew Smulian, knowing about the terrorist nature of the group and that the weapons were intended to kill American pilots in Colombia. The prosecutor re-quoted the Russian’s words that he said at the Sofitel Hotel in Bangkok at a meeting with the dummy FARC emissaries. “We are together; we have the same enemy. It’s not business. It’s my fight. I’m fighting the US for 15 years now,” Viktor Bout said then. Anjan Sahni also expressed doubts about the veracity of the defence version that Bout’s sole purpose was to sell commercial aircraft. If he only wanted to sell the aircraft, why he needed clandestine measures, including the introduction of codes? the prosecutor said. The prosecution, which is to present its final rebuttal on Tuesday, called seven witnesses in the trial, including Mr. Bout’s former associate, Andrew Smulian, and two Drug Enforcement Administration informants who posed as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, a group labelled a foreign terrorist organisation by the State Department. The defence called no witnesses, The New York Times reported. In his closing argument, the prosecutor, Anjan Sahni, highlighted e-mail exchanges and recorded telephone conversations between Mr. Bout and his associates, including a man Mr. Bout believed, he said, was a FARC representative. Mr. Bout’s goal was “unmistakably clear,” Mr. Sahni said: to sell up to 30,000 AK-47 rifles, 10 million rounds of ammunition, 800 missiles and 5 tons of C-4 explosives, among other military equipment, to FARC, understanding that the group intended to use the arms to kill American citizens. “These were the tools of waging war,” Mr. Sahni told jurors. Viktor Bout’s lawyer, in turn, expressed confidence that “the truth is on the side” of his client. He for the last time tried to convince the jurors that the Russian was not going to kill Americans and sell weapons to FARC. All the evidence of the prosecutors is nothing more than speculation, the lawyer said. - One thing is clear: my client brought to the meeting with the “buyers” in Bangkok nothing but two brochures describing the aircraft. He also had no weapons’ specifications, prices and other basic details that could serve as evidence of the transaction, and, therefore, the transaction itself did not take place. All that has been presented to the jury is evidence provided by Smulian, who has repeatedly lied. He made a deal with prosecutors and had to speak the “truth,” hoping for leniency, Dayan stressed. According to him, Andrew Smulian and DEA agents lured Bout into Bangkok, pledging to buy his planes. They hooked him, using the idea of selling aircraft as a bait, said the lawyer. According to him, Bout, as well as DEA agents, played a “double game.” Had Bout not played up to the agents, they would not agree to buy the planes, the lawyer said. In addition, he pointed out that in March 2008 Bout was not hiding from anybody and arrived in Bangkok with his passport. In his own closing argument Albert Dayan admitted that he was nervous and thanked Mr. Bout for “trusting me with the most difficult decision of his life.” He said the four conspiracy charges levelled at his client were supported by nothing but “speculation, innuendo and conjecture,” according to The New York Times. Mr. Dayan’s core argument was that Mr. Bout had humoured the supposed FARC representatives’ interest in weapons, and even encouraged it, in an attempt to sell two cargo planes that he intended to persuade the men were necessary for the delivery of the weapons. Dayan emphasised that Mr. Bout never actually believed the men were members of FARC and said his client was “acting out” throughout their dealings; a weapons deal, Dayan said, was never agreed upon, nor did Mr. Bout ever plan on delivering any military equipment. Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Albert Dayan said that his team has managed to show the jury evidence testifying to Bout’s innocence. He noted he was sure that the defence provided to the jury in full volume the information they need to know. I hope that they will pass a correct and fair verdict, the lawyer said. The Russian businessman’s wide Alla Bout in the run-up to the decisive meeting of the jury expressed the hope that “something positive will happen.” “I believe that the defence has done a lot. As Viktor said, it now remains only to pray to God that the lawyer’s arguments are heeded by the jury. We hope that the jury will be rather adequate and that the jurors will have enough human experience and intuition to make a fair decision,” Alla Bout said. The court meeting will continue at 10:00, local time (18:00 MSK). The prosecution side is expected to make its last remarks. Then the judge will give instructions to the jury and they will retire for deliberations on the verdict to a separate room. The discussion may take from several minutes to several days. The verdict requires a unanimous decision of all 12 jurors. Otherwise, the judge may declare the trial invalid and announce the beginning of new proceedings. The 44-year-old Viktor Bout is charged with four counts - a criminal conspiracy to kill US nationals, conspiracy to kill public servants, criminal conspiracy to purchase and sell anti-aircraft missiles, conspiracy to supply weapons to terrorist groups. The Russian has pleaded not guilty to all charges. If convicted, Bout faces a punishment from 25 years in prison to life imprisonment.

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