The lawyer for accused Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout filed a last ditch appeal Monday to Thailand's prime minister in an effort to stop his client's extradition to the United States. Bout, a 43-year-old former Soviet air force officer who is reputed to have been one of the world's most prolific arms dealers, was arrested in March 2008 in Bangkok as part of a sting operation led by U.S. agents.
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 in Angola's civil war. A Thai court in August last year originally rejected Washington's request for Bout's extradition on terrorism-related charges,
but after the ruling was reversed last week the U.S. moved to get him out quickly, sending a special plane to stand by.Just ahead of the appeals court ruling, the United States forwarded new money-laundering and wire fraud charges to Thailand, in an attempt to keep Bout detained if the court ordered his release. But the move backfired, because Bout now cannot legally leave Thailand until a court hears the new charges.