Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer caught in an undercover sting by US agents posing as Colombian guerrillas, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Thursday by a judge in New York, prompting charges of political bias from Russia.
Bout, the subject of a book titled Merchant of Death, asserted his innocence during the sentencing, telling the judge through a Russian interpreter: “I never intended to kill anyone. I never intended to sell arms to anyone. God knows this truth.”
“These people know this truth,” he said, pointing at federal agents sitting in the front row. “They will live with this truth ... God forgive you. You will answer to him, not to me.”
Bout, who Amnesty International says has been involved in embargo-busting arms deals to human rights abusers in Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo, was arrested in Bangkok in 2008 after a US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sting operation and later extradited to New York to face trial.
He was convicted by a Manhattan federal court jury last fall after a three-week trial that centered on charges he agreed to sell arms to people he thought were militants intent on attacking American soldiers in Colombia.
Russia said the “groundless and biased” ruling was politically motivated. The foreign ministry said Russia would continue to seek Bout’s return to his country.
“The American judicial system, carrying out an obvious political order, ignored the arguments of the defence lawyers," a ministry statement said.