BANGKOK, Thailand – A Russian arms dealer accused of breaking U.N. arms embargoes by supplying weapons to African war zones was arrested Thursday in Bangkok, Thai police said.
Viktor Bout was arrested in the heart of the capital city on a warrant issued by a Thai court, said Police Lt. Gen. Pongpat Chayapan, head of the Crime Suppression Bureau. The warrant stemmed from an earlier one issued by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, he said.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman "congratulated" Thai police for the arrest but could not provide details about the role U.S. officials played in it. Details of the charges against Bout were also not immediately available.
Bout allegedly has been trafficking weapons to Central and West Africa since the early 1990s. United Nations reports say he set up a network of more than 50 aircraft around the world and trade experts have said the illicit diamond trade was likely one source of funds for his smuggled arms shipments.
Although Bout has been investigated by police in several countries, he has never been prosecuted for arms dealing.
A 2005 report by Amnesty International, a Britain-based human rights watchdog, alleged Bout was "the most prominent foreign businessman" involved in trafficking arms to UN-embargoed destinations from Bulgaria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and other countries.
The report also implicated Bout in transferring "very large quantities of arms" from Ukraine that were delivered to Uganda via Tanzania aboard a Greek-registered cargo ship.
In 2003, the U.N. imposed an arms embargo on the provinces of North and South Kivu and the Ituri regions of eastern Congo, and also on groups that were not a part of the 2003 peace agreement for the region.