Alleged Russian arms dealer pleads not guilty

17th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Viktor Bout, the Russian alleged to be one of the world's biggest illegal arms dealers, pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges in a US court Wednesday, hours after being extradited from Thailand.

"He will plead not guilty," a lawyer for Bout said in New York federal court before Judge Shira Scheindlin ordered the alleged arm dealer to remain in detention until a hearing set for January 10.

Bout, 43, faces a maximum penalty of life in prison and minimum of 25 years if found guilty.

US prosecutors allege he ran one of the world's most extensive arms trafficking networks and was trapped in a sting operation in which he believed he was selling a large arsenal to Colombia's FARC narco-guerrillas, which Washington designates a terrorist organization.

Despite his allegedly lucrative weapons empire, Bout insisted in court documents that he had not received income recently and needed a court-appointed lawyer.

Scheindlin said it was "difficult to assess whether or not you can afford an attorney" and asked Bout to confirm that his financial statement was correct.

"Yes," Bout said.

© 2010 AFP

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