Another Charles Taylor international associate faces extradition

By Emmanuel Abalo and International Wire Services

Another international associate and black market arms dealer of former Liberian President Charles Taylor is facing extradition to answer an indictment which charges that he tried to buy airplanes from US companies to transport illegal arms to conflict spots around the world. Viktor Bout was indicted on February 17, 2010 by U.S Prosecutors.

Mr. Viktor Bout

An appeals court in Thailand on Friday granted a request made by the U.S. Government for the extradition of Mr. Viktor Bout. As the verdict of his extradition was read, Mr. Bout hung his head and cried. Known as the “Merchant of Death” the high profile arms dealer and Russian native is accused by US prosecutor of selling and brokering arms deal which exacerbated wars and conflicts and supported regimes in Afghanistan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Sudan.

Mr.. Bout is on the United Nations list of individuals sanctioned for his direct support to former Liberian President Charles Taylor’s whose regime in West Africa is alleged to have supported rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone between 1991 – 2001. The war claimed the lives of nearly 250,000 people and dislocated another 1 million others in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Mr. Bout has denied US prosecutors charges against him saying he was infact a legitimate arms dealer.

Mr.. Taylor is facing war crimes trial in the Hague before the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Lauren Rozen, a foreign policy report for the online website Politico charges that ” Bout became linked to Charles Taylor through Sanjivan Ruprah, a Kenyan, in 2000. Ruprah was a biz partner of Bout’s, and has two Liberian passports. Bout and Ruprah got some diamond mines in exchange for their services. Bout was happy to take diamonds in payment for his lethal loads to Liberia, Congo and Angola. He had even tried to set up a diamond export business in the Congo…”

Ruprah remains at large and is believed to be back in business in somewhere in parts of Africa supplying arms to various groups.

The former Taylor associate Mr. Bout is said to have made millions in the illicit black-market arms market

A U.S Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets statement details that the arms dealer Mr. Bout as owns several bank accounts, air cargo firms and shell companies under various names. Authorities believe Mr. Bout used these various assets to evade international tracking of his business ventures in arms deliveries to nefarious and shady individuals and insurgent groups across the globe.

In a letter dated October 26, 2001 from the Chairman of the UN Security Council Committee established pursuant to the resolution 1343 of 2001 concerning Liberia addressed to the President of the Security Council, it was noted that the ” the main company behind many of the arms shipments was San Air, in the United Arab Emirates. San Air is an agent for Centrafrican Airlines, the main company of Viktor Bout, and the owner of many of the arms trafficking planes involved. San Air’s bank accounts were used for many payments for arms deliveries to Liberia and the money trail is described in the section on government expenditures”

The UN Panel at the time recommended that an arms embargo be extended on Liberia, that all UN member states abstain from supplying weans to the Mano River Countries and an arms embargo be imposed on the armed non-state actors in the three Mano River Union countries (namely the LURD and ULIMO factions, the RUF and Guinean armed dissident groups).

In its report, the UN Panel in its analysis of the aviation network involved in arms supplies to Liberia under the regime of ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor cited “evidence of involvement of Sergui Denissenko, Alexander Islamov, Papel Popov and Sanjivan Ruprah. All these individuals are directly connected to Viktor Bout and the operations of his aircraft…”

In section 23 of the Executive Summary of the UN Panel’s Report, the Panel documented how the “Singapore-based mother company of the Oriental Timber Company, a company with significant timber operations in Liberia arranged a $500,000 USD payment for arms shipment in August, 1999; how the Bureau of Maritime Affairs in Liberia headed at the time by another Taylor Associate Mr. Benoni Urey assisted violation of the arms embargo and paid directly to Victor Bout’s San Air’s bank account and how Sanjivan Ruprah, a diamond dealer and partner of Viktor Bout had taken residence in Liberia, at the end of the arms pipeline”.

International wire reports say “U.S DEA agents posed as Colombian guerrillas and lured the elusive Mr. Bout on tape promising to sell the crew 700 to 800 surface-to-air missiles, enough ammo for a small war, cargo planes and even “how-to” classes to use the weapons.”

Mr. Bout’s lawyers have served notice that they intend to file an appeal against the decision to extradite him to the US for prosecution.

On his “official” website, Mr. Bout states that…”Venturing into Africa was a matter of necessity rather than choice. “


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