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Joe Biden releases notorious Russian arms dealer known as "The Merchant of Death" after attending "victims of gun violence in America" memorial
"Our work continues to limit the number of bullets that can be in a cartridge, the type of weapon that can be purchased," Biden said hours before releasing the world's most notorious arms dealer.
President Joe Biden has released Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, known as “The Merchant of Death,” from prison after attending a memorial for “victims of gun violence in America.”
Bout has been convicted of several crimes related to his illegal arms trafficking activities. Bout, believed to have supplied weapons to some of the world's most dangerous regimes and rebel groups, was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and extradited to the United States in 2010.
Bout, a former Soviet military officer, was serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States on charges of conspiring to kill Americans, acquiring and exporting anti-aircraft missiles, and providing material support to a terrorist organization.
As one of the most notorious figures in the global arms trade, he became the inspiration behind the Nicholas Cage Character in the movie "Lord of War."
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Bout's criminal activities date back to the 1990s when he established a network of companies specializing in procuring and transporting weapons.
Using his connections with corrupt officials and military leaders, Bout could obtain large quantities of weapons from Eastern European countries and transport them to conflict zones worldwide.
By the late 1990s, U.N. reports documented evidence of Mr. Bout supplying arms to rebel forces in Sudan, Rwanda, the Congo, Angola, and Sierra Leone, all in defiance of U.N. embargos.
Witney Schneidman, an African expert in the U.S. State Department who tracked Mr. Bout's activities, told the BBC that Mr. Bout would often supply weapons to both sides of the same conflict.
Among other things, Bout has been accused of providing weapons to the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda.
He has also been linked to arms shipments to Iraq and Liberia, both of which were under international arms embargos at the time.
Bout's illegal arms trafficking activities have resulted in thousands of deaths and contributed to the instability and violence in many regions of the world.
His actions have been condemned by governments and human rights organizations worldwide and have made him a target of international sanctions and law enforcement efforts.
Mike Braun, the former chief of operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, told 60 Minutes in 2010 that "Viktor Bout, in my eyes, is one of the most dangerous men on the face of the Earth."
Braun told 60 Minutes, "Bout first "exploded" on the scene in war-torn West Africa in the late 1980s, elevating bloody conflicts from machetes and single-shot rifles to military-grade assault rifles.”
"AK-47s not by the thousands but by the tens of thousands," Braun explained.
"He transformed these young adolescent warriors into insidious, mindless, maniacally driven killing machines that operated with assembly line efficiencies," Braun said.
Asked what makes Bout a threat to the United States, Braun said, "He is a shadow facilitator. He's arming not only designated terrorist groups, insurgent groups, but he's also arming very powerful drug trafficking cartels around the globe."
According to the U.S. indictment, Bout had a unique selling point regarding weapons trafficking: "a fleet of cargo airplanes capable of transporting weapons and military equipment anytime, anywhere."
With more than 60 planes, it was his private air force.
"Those Russian aircraft were built like flying dump trucks. He could move this stuff and drop it with pinpoint accuracy to any desert, to any jungle, to any other remote place in the world. Right into the hands of what I refer to as the potpourri of global scum," Braun told 60 Minutes.
By the late 1990s, Bout was a legend in the shadowy world of illicit arms dealing - so illusive that the only two pictures that have surfaced of him back then were taken without Bout's knowledge by a Belgian photographer.
President Biden, surrounded by armed Secret Service members, renewed his push to ban assault weapons yesterday during the "National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence."
"...Our work continues to limit the number of bullets that can be in a cartridge, the type of weapon that can be purchased and sold, the attempt to ban assault weapons, a whole range of things that are just common sense, just simple common sense," Biden said hours before releasing the world’s most notorious arms dealer.
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