by Stephen Lendman
On February 17, 2010, the US Justice Department indicted Bout and Richard Ammar Chichakli "for allegedly conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act ("IEEPA") stemming from their efforts to purchase two aircraft from companies located in the United States, in violation of economic sanctions which prohibited such financial transactions."
Other charges included "money laundering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, and six separate counts of wire fraud, in connection with these financial transactions."
In March 2008, he was originally charged with conspiring to kill Americans by "selling millions of dollars worth of weapons to Colombia-based narco-terrorists." Other charges were then added, including selling weapons to Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
An unsealed superseding indictment alleged "the extraordinary breadth of (his) criminal enterprise."
America's criminal justice system notoriously manufactures spurious "evidence" to indict, prosecute, convict, and imprison. When evidence doesn't exist, it's invented. America's gulag is filled with thousands of wrongfully incarcerated victims.
Most are Black, Latino, or Muslims. Occasionally someone like Bout is targeted for political and/or other reasons. Washington called him the "Merchant of Death" and "Lord of War."
Hyperbole substitutes for facts. Juries are intimidated to convict. Right-wing judges go along. America's criminal justice system's corrupted. Targeted victims rarely have a chance.
In Bout's case, their was no plot, no crime, and no intent to commit one. Nonetheless, he was lawlessly entrapped to make it look that way.
On November 2, 2011, Bout was convicted of conspiring to sell weapons to Colombia's FARC-EP. The State Department spuriously designated it a "foreign terrorist organization."
The Justice Department said "He aimed to sell weapons to terrorists for the purpose of killing Americans. With today's swift verdict, justice has been done, and a very dangerous man will be behind bars." The DEA was thanked for its helped. Another innocent man was framed.
He faced 25 years to life. Prosecutors asked for the maximum. Late Thursday, US District Judge Shira Scheindlin gave him the minimum mandatory 25 year sentence. His Russian lawyer Viktor Burobin said he's wrongfully characterized as an "enemy of the American people." He's nothing of the sort.
Bout insists he's innocent. He said charges against him were fabricated. He accused media scoundrels of repeating "sensationalist and irresponsible coverage of his case."
He ran a legitimate air cargo business. He said everything he did was legal. A lawless Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sting entrapped him. He hopes Russian authorities will intervene on his behalf. They've tried but need to do more. Otherwise he'll do hard time and rot like other US injustice victims.
A Russian businessman, he claims malicious lies were manufactured about him. He blames a UN official. He arranged contracts for Bout's companies. He then helped sell him out.
Last October, Russia Today headlined, "Rigged trial a final step toward bars for Bout?" saying:
His family expected no fairness. In 2008, Washington got Thai authorities to arrest and hold him. In November 2010, they were pressured to extradite him to America. They knew he was innocent but yielded anyway.
Bout said America falsely claimed he was a billionaire and illegal arms dealer. He's no billionaire or even rich after his ordeal. In fact, he ended up in debt. He insists he "never traded in weapons." Media scoundrels regurgitated official lies with no evidence beyond what prosecutors claim.
Douglas Farah wrote about his case in his book titled, "Merchant of Death." He ran his business legally. Farah, however, repeated prosecutorial lies. In August 2008, he even lied to Congress. Maybe he wanted to sell books and/or cash in by cooperating with authorities.
Ironically, Washington at one time was one of Bout's largest customers. Now they want him imprisoned for life.
He was set up, entrapped, and framed. No legitimate evidence exists against him. Everything claimed was falsified. He was targeted in summer 2004. He operated mostly in Africa and Eurasia. His business dominated his areas of concentration.
The CIA wanted to control arms trafficking on the continent, and monopolize air transport for it. Bout stood in the way. He had to go. The scheme involved transforming a legitimate businessman and US supplier into an illegal arms trafficker and "Lord of War."
They did it with no evidence of weapons, missiles, explosives, or other implements of war. Authorities only had what DEA agent Derek Odney claimed, and he was part of the scheme to frame Bout. He unsuccessfully tried to bribe a Russian intelligence official in return for help getting him extradited to America.
No weapons existed. No money changed hands. No evidence whatever exists except what Washington manufactured to indict and convict him. In the process, they destroyed his business, reputation, and life by assuring his imprisonment unless Russia's able to apply enough pressure to free him.
A spurious post-9/11 Johan Peleman UN report led to his downfall, business collapse, indictment, and conviction. Allegedly Peleman was well paid for his services. At issue again was the CIA wanting him out of the way to conduct their own activities freely.
It shouldn't surprise as America's involved in these type shenanigans globally. People are enlisted to help, then discarded when no longer needed, or in Bout's case, maliciously framed to destroy him.
Like CIA, the DEA runs its own global intelligence and surveillance network. It extends well beyond elicit drugs. It blurs the line between the two agencies.
In Thailand, DEA agents posed as FARC-EP operatives. They recorded conversations manipulated to sound like Bout wanted to sell them weapons.
Enough tapes can be spliced and diced to say anything. Prior to his entrapment, Bout did no business in Latin America. That alone proved something rotten. He operated in Africa and Eurasia, besides doing business with Washington.
Twice Thai courts exonerated him for lack of evidence. Yet he was held and extradited to America. It was extraordinary rendition Thailand-style.
Reports suggested Obama personally pressured its government to cooperate. Getting Bout out of the way meant that much. Reportedly, Washington spent $100 million to do it. It shows how low America stoops, won't take no for an answer, and cost doesn't matter to frame another victim.
International law was trashed. Bout's rights were denied. Extraditing him was illegal. So was indicting and convicting him. Juries fed falsified information are intimidated to go along.
The scenario repeats against numerous framed defendants. It's simple when terrorism's alleged or conspiracy to commit it. Most often, juries won't risk freeing someone perhaps guilty even if not sure. Perhaps they feel better safe than sorry. They don't know they were duped.
Moreover, when defendants Washington wants framed are exonerated, they face new charges enough times until convicted.
Bout was a successful businessman. He began from scratch. He operated legally. His air cargo company transported everything from oil to eggs. At times, legal weapons as well for clients like America. Among other destinations, he shipped them to Afghanistan and Iraq. He also worked with the UN in Sudan.
Earlier, when civil wars wracked Africa, other cargo companies left, but he stayed. It paid off handsomely until Washington destroyed all he built.
Imperial lawlessness ravages what gets in its way. It's the American way.
A Final Comment
On April 6, Russia Today reported on Judge Scheindlin's sentencing, saying:
"His defense plans to appeal to the Supreme Court" if necessary. It won't help. US courts, especially federal ones, are dominated by Federalist Society judges. When Washington targets someone for conviction, they go along.
Their right-wing agenda includes, rolling back civil liberties; defiling human rights; ending New Deal social policies; opposing reproductive choice, government regulations, labor rights, and environmental protections; as well as subverting justice in defense of privilege.
The Supreme Court won't likely touch Bout's case. At the appellate level (and High Court if it surprises), hard-right judges will swallow him whole or chew him up and spit him out unjustly.
That's the reality he faces. His only chance is effective Russian intervention. Its only chance perhaps is grabbing a valued American, putting him or her through the same ordeal, then arranging a prisoner swap. It wouldn't be the first time because it works.
Scheindlin's sentence added five years of supervised release. Bout's also ordered to forfeit $15 million and pay a $400 special assessment. Reports are he's broke, so tacking on fines and forfeits may be more rhetoric than reality.
His US lawyer Albert Dayan and Russian one Viktor Borobin said conviction didn't end his case. In two weeks or less, they'll appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. It'll take months to be heard and months more for a ruling.
In the meantime, Judge Scheindlin recommended Bout be kept in the general prison population, not isolation. His treatment's been so harsh and unjust all along, expect little change now.
Under optimum circumstances, his liberating struggle will be protracted, painful, and against long odds for success.
Like thousands of others wrongfully imprisoned in America's gulag, he deserves much better, but won't likely get it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.