Merchant of Death extradition delayed, Thai PM
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Wednesday that the planned extradition to the United States of alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout has been delayed due to legal complications.
According to Suthep Thaugsuban, deputy prime minister in charge of national security, the process has been stalled because of new charges of money-laundering and fraud announced by US prosecutors in February. Another court hearing in Thailand has been scheduled for 4 October.
Police originally said that Bout, who has been dubbed the 'Merchant of Death', would be escorted from jail on Wednesday by 50 commandos to a Bangkok airport. US authorities have sent a private jet to fly him out.
But the extradition is strongly opposed by Russia, and Thai officials said that they would not let a US plane waiting on the tarmac put pressure on them.
Bout was arrested on charges of terrorism and conspiracy to kill US nationals in March 2008 after a sting operation in Thailand saw US agents pose as Colombian rebels.
If convicted in the United States Bout faces life imprisonment.
Bout says that he ran a legitimate air cargo business and denies all charges.
Thailand and the United States have traditionally been close allies. Bangkok stressed it wants to maintain warm ties with Russia, an important trading partner, despite the extradition ruling.
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