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U.S. Court Rejects Bid For New Trial By Russian 'Lord Of War'

  • RFE/RL

Convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout arrives at a court in Bangkok, Thailand, in October 2011.

Convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout arrives at a court in Bangkok, Thailand, in October 2011.

A U.S. judge said convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence, does not deserve a new trial on the basis of newly discovered evidence.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin on October 26 said Bout, often referred to as Russia's "Lord of War" or "Merchant of Death" and who was the subject of a book and two movies, did not meet the high legal standard of showing that his November 2011 jury conviction should be thrown out.

Jurors convicted Bout of conspiring to kill U.S. soldiers by selling arms to informants posing as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which the U.S. government considers a terrorist organization, and conspiring to acquire and export antiaircraft missiles.

After a notorious career as one of the world's foremost arms dealers, Bout, 48, was arrested in Bangkok, Thailand, in March 2008 on weapons-trafficking charges following a global sting operation.

In seeking a new trial, Bout claimed he could not have been involved in a conspiracy with former business associate Andrew Smulian, who testified against him at trial, because Smulian was a government agent throughout the investigation.

Bout also said other newly discovered evidence contradicted Smulian's trial testimony and undermined the indictment.

The judge, however, said Bout's evidence could have been discovered before trial, would not have undermined the jury's finding that he and Smulian were co-conspirators, and would not have affected the trial's outcome.

"Bout fails, as a matter of law," to meet the standards for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence, which is granted "only in extraordinary circumstances," the judge wrote.

Alexei Tarasov, a lawyer for Bout, had no immediate comment.

In September 2013, a federal appeals court in Manhattan also refused to overturn Bout's conviction, which he claimed followed a "vindictive" prosecution and his improper extradition from Thailand.

Bout is in a medium-security prison in Marion, Illinois, and not eligible for release until January 20, 2030.

With reporting by Reuters and TASS