U.S. judges have given a cool reception to an appeal by notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, dubbed the "Merchant of Death," to nullify his conviction on illegal arms trafficking.
All three judges on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hearing Bout's case expressed skepticism on October 31 about his claim of unfair prosecution, though they did not immediately rule on the challenge to his 25-year prison sentence.
Bout's lawyers argued that his 2011 conviction was unfair because the man he was supposedly conspiring with to sell arms illegally was working with the U.S. government in a sting operation.
Bout, who claims he was a legitimate businessman, built a worldwide air cargo operation with a fleet of more than 60 transport planes and a fortune over $6 billion -- exploits that were the inspiration for the book Merchant Of Death and the Nicolas Cage film Lord Of War."
Bout's aircraft flew from Afghanistan to Angola, carrying everything from raw minerals to frozen fish. But his specialty, prosecutors said, was black market arms -- assault rifles, ammunition, antiaircraft missiles, helicopter gunships, and sophisticated weapons systems, almost always sourced from Russian stocks or Eastern European factories.