BANGKOK – BANGKOK (AP) — A suspected Russian arms dealer known as "The Merchant of Death" has been transferred to a high-security prison in the Thai capital pending his extradition to the United States, authorities said Tuesday.
A Thai appeals court last week ordered Viktor Bout's extradition within three months to face four terrorism-related charges in the U.S. Neither American nor Thai officials have said when exactly he will be extradited or specified the bureaucratic steps required before it can take place.
Bout, a 43-year-old former Soviet air force officer who is reputed to be one of the world's most prolific arms dealers, was arrested in March 2008 in Bangkok as part of an elaborate sting operation led by U.S. agents. He was held for nearly two and a half years in the Bangkok Remand Prison.
Thai prison authorities moved him after Friday's verdict to the Bang Kwang Prison, a high-security facility on the outskirts of Bangkok.
"The prison Viktor Bout was staying in prior to the ruling is for those awaiting trial," said Chatchai Suthikolm, the director-general of Thailand's Corrections Department. "Now that the court has ruled he was transferred."
"This is also for his security," Chatchai said. "He is now just waiting to be extradited."
He said that Bout was allowed visits by the Russian Embassy and was sharing a cell with other inmates but that he did not have other details of Bout's living conditions.
Bout's wife, Alla Bout, complained that he was currently confined to a small cell and not allowed to take walks.
She said her husband was determined to defend himself in an American court.
"He says he will not make things easy for the Americans," Alla Bout told the Itar-Tass news agency Monday. "He intends to win the trial if it is a real trial, not a farce."
Bout has allegedly supplied weapons that fueled civil wars in South America, the Middle East and Africa, with clients including Liberia's Charles Taylor and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and both sides of the civil war in Angola.
The head of a lucrative air transport empire, Bout has long evaded U.N. and U.S. sanctions aimed at blocking his financial activities and restricting his travel. He has denied any involvement in illicit activities and claims he ran a legitimate business.