18 Nov 2010

Accused Russian arms dealer denies terrorism charges

10:32 pm on 18 November 2010

Accused Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout has pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges, hours after he was extradited to the United States from Thailand.

The former Russian air force officer is accused of trying to sell arms to Colombian rebels and supplying weapons used in Africa and the Middle East, the BBC reports.

US Attorney General Eric Holder, in a statement, called Mr Bout one of the world's most prolific arms traffickers.

According to the indictment, in 2007 and 2008 Mr Bout met informants for the US Drug Enforcement Agency in Thailand whom he believed to be agents of the Colombian rebel group, the Farc.

Prosecutors allege he agreed to sell them millions of dollars worth of heavy weaponry, including surface-to-air missile systems, armour-piercing rocket launchers, assault rifles and ammunition, land mines, explosives, night-vision equipment and aircraft.

The BBC reports Mr Bout was subsequently arrested by Thai police in Bangkok. After two years of diplomatic wrangling with Thailand and Russia, he was flown to the US early on Tuesday.

He is charged with conspiracy to kill US nationals and government officers, conspiracy to use an anti-aircraft missile and conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organisation.

If convicted Mr Bout faces 25 years in prison.

Mr Bout is being held without bail in a high-security prison in New York City pending trial. He is next due in court in January.