US expects Bout's 'speedy extradition' from Thailand

5th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

US President Barack Obama's administration said Tuesday it looks forward to alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout's "speedy extradition" to the United States from Thailand.

A Thai court earlier dismissed money-laundering and fraud charges against Bout, removing a major obstacle to his extradition to the United States.

"We look forward to having Victor Bout in a prison near us very soon," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.

"I believe there is a mandatory waiting period...We believe after this mandatory period under Thai law we look forward to a speedy extradition of Victor Bout to the United States," he added.

A Thai appeals court in August ordered the so-called "Merchant of Death" be handed over to Washington on terrorism charges, angering Russia, but the process has been held up by technicalities over the new accusations.

Thailand's Criminal Court, citing insufficient evidence, on Tuesday dismissed proceedings surrounding the new charges against Bout, who is said to have inspired the Hollywood film "Lord of War" starring Nicolas Cage.

But Bout's defense lawyer has said he plans a last-ditch legal challenge against the extradition order issued in August.

Bout, a 43-year-old former Soviet air force pilot, was arrested in 2008 after a sting operation in Bangkok involving undercover US agents posing as rebels from Colombia's FARC rebels, considered a terrorist group by Washington.

He has repeatedly denied suggestions that he was a former KGB agent and maintains that he ran a legitimate air cargo business.

© 2010 AFP

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