Royce Says International Arms Dealer Viktor Bout Belongs Behind Bars on U.S. Soil
U.S. Right to Reject Russia’s Request, Says Terrorism Chair
Nov 12, 2012 -
Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade, issued the following statement after reports surfaced this weekend that the U.S. Justice Department has refused a request from Russia that convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout serve his 25-year prison term in Russia.
"Convicted terrorist Viktor Bout is where he belongs - behind bars on U.S. soil. Transferring him back to Russia isn’t an option. I am pleased to learn that the U.S. Justice Department has sent that message to Moscow," said Royce.
Earlier this year, after learning of Russian efforts to seek Bout’s transfer to Russia, Royce wrote in an April 9, 2012 letter to Secretary of State Clinton and Attorney General Holder:
"I know you agree with me that any such arrangement would be completely unacceptable. The United States did not invest considerable resources in Bout’s arrest and extradition from Thailand, only to see him returned to Russia, where he would surely reengage in his deadly trade. Thank you in advance for standing firm for justice and our nation’s security interests."
After Bout’s arrest in Thailand in 2008, Royce spearheaded congressional efforts to see that Viktor Bout was extradited to the United States. In August 2010, on the eve of a crucial court hearing, Royce led a congressional letter to the Thai government, pressing for Bout’s extradition. In addition, Royce authored an op-ed which appeared in the Washington Post, calling for stepped-up U.S. engagement to see that Bout was not set free.
Last November, a jury in New York found Bout guilty of all four charges against him, which included conspiring to kill United States citizens and attempting to arm the Colombian terrorist organization know as the FARC. Prior to his arrest, Bout fueled many brutal civil wars on the African continent and elsewhere through the illicit sale of arms, breaking international arms embargos. In Afghanistan, Bout simultaneously armed the Taliban and the Northern Alliance and is linked to international terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah and al-Shabaab.
The full text of Royce’s letter can be found below:
April 9, 2012
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
The Honorable Eric Holder
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530
Dear Secretary of State Clinton and Attorney General Holder:
I am writing in regard to the recent sentencing of international arms trafficker Viktor Bout in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
As one who has followed this case for several years, and who assisted in securing Bout’s extradition from Thailand, it is satisfying to see this case coming to a close. As the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York said, Viktor Bout’s sentencing last week "is a fitting coda for this career arms trafficker of the most dangerous order." Like you, I was disappointed that the presiding judge imposed only the minimum mandatory sentence of 25 years, denying the life sentence that prosecutors sought. But a man whose actions undermined the security of many countries and regions, and destroyed the lives of thousands of innocents, is now sentenced to many years behind bars. That is an accomplishment.
This lighter sentence seems to have emboldened the Russians, however. Press reports indicate that the Russian Foreign Minister will soon raise the case with Secretary Clinton, even seeking to have Bout serve his sentence in Russia. I know you agree with me that any such arrangement would be completely unacceptable. The United States did not invest considerable resources in Bout's arrest and extradition from Thailand, only to see him returned to Russia, where he would surely reengage in his deadly trade. Thank you in advance for standing firm for justice and our nation's security interests.
EDWARD R. ROYCE
Chairman, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade