NEW YORK – Prosecutors announced an indictment Tuesday against a reputed Russian arms smuggler who they say tried to sell weapons to a U.S.-designated terrorist organization with the goal of killing Americans.
The indictment charges Viktor Bout with four terrorism offenses, including conspiring to kill Americans, conspiring to kill U.S. officers or employees, conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and conspiring to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile.
The charges were based in part on a covertly recorded meeting in Thailand on March 6. Prosecutors say Bout said he understood that an organization of Colombia's leftist rebels wanted to use weapons against Americans in the country.
Bout was accused of saying the group's fight against the United States was also his fight because the U.S. was also his enemy.
"Viktor Bout no doubt faces some of the most extraordinarily serious conspiracy charges possible for his crimes against Americans," Michele M. Leonhart, acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration. "With the unsealing of this indictment, we are one step closer to ensuring Bout has delivered his last load of high-powered weaponry and armed his final terrorist."
Bout was arrested earlier this year in Thailand. The United States is seeking his extradition on charges that could result in a life sentence.
Bout's arms dealings reportedly inspired a 2005 movie about the illicit arms trade. He had eluded arrest for years.
He has declined to comment to reporters in Thailand, but has long denied being involved in illicit deals.
Prosecutors said Bout conspired with others to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons, including 100 surface-to-air missiles and armor-piercing rockets.
The indictment said they intended to sell the arms between November 2007 and March to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
The leftist group has been fighting Colombia's government for more than four decades. It is listed by the U.S. as a terror group.
The indictment said the organization's violent acts directed against the United States and U.S. interests have included the murder of Americans, the kidnapping of U.S. nationals and the bombing of a restaurant in Bogota, Colombia, frequented by U.S. nationals.