Friday 6 April 2012

Viktor Bout, 'merchant of death', is sentenced to 25 years imprisonment

Can anyone explain what Viktor Bout is supposed to have done that is wrong or why arms dealing should be a crime? Or why the state of New York has jurisdiction to try a Russian who did not live in the USA for defying U.N. sanctions outside the USA?  He was described as the largest non-state arms supplier in the world and as having traded arms from Tiraspol in Transnistria. All countries trade arms, especially the U.S. Government which captured him in 'a sting operation' meaning Bout was set up by agents provocateurs. Why shouldn't random Russian private individuals trade arms too?

Washington had been attempting to prosecute Bout since the early 2000s - even as it had contracted his company to provide logistical support for the 2003 Iraq invasion - including moving to freeze his assets in 2006.
US authorities were held back, however, by the lack of any law that they could charge him under.

Sir Basil Zaharoff who began his life in the back streets of Constantinople and whose first job was as a fireman in a time and place when firemen made their money from looting burning buildings (others say as a boy he was a brothel pimp), rose to control major arms companies throughout Europe including Krupp and Vickers. I once read a fascinating hugely enjoyable biography of him written not long after his death but I do not know how much is legend, how much true. Zaharoff armed both sides in the Boer War and various other wars including it was said the First World War but he was knighted by King George V, was the confidant of Lloyd George and Briand and effectively bought the principality of Monaco, making the Prince more or less his employee. Basil Zaharoff was a very successful merchant of death who died loaded with honours. I can imagine him getting along fine with Dick Cheney and Tony Blair.

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