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  Tuesday, September 17, 2019
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A Thai court may announce its ruling on the extradition
A Thai court may announce its ruling on the extradition of a Russian businessman, accused of conspiring to sell arms to Colombian left-wing rebels, in early June, a defense lawyer said on Wednesday.

The court continued the extradition hearing on Wednesday against Viktor Bout, 42, who was arrested in Bangkok in March last year during a sting operation led by U.S. agents. The United States accuses Bout of conspiring with others to sell millions of dollars' worth of weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

"I think it is most likely that if the last hearings are held on May 19, the verdict will be passed on June 3-5," Bout's Thai lawyer, Lak Nitiwatvichan said, commenting on the results of today's court session.

Bout has consistently denied the accusations and recently said his case was fabricated by the U.S. government for political reasons.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in March that Russia would not interfere in the trial, but would provide Bout with legal support.

The former Russian army officer faces a life sentence if extradited and tried in a U.S. court. However, Thai authorities earlier announced that they would not be pressing charges against Bout.

Western law enforcement agencies consider Bout to be "the most prominent foreign businessman" involved in trafficking arms to UN-embargoed destinations, including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola.

UN reports say Bout set up a network of more than 50 cargo aircraft around the world to facilitate his arms shipments, earning him the nickname "merchant of death."

Russia's Embassy in Thailand said on Wednesday that it would ask Thai authorities for longer jail meetings between Bout with his wife following the suspect's request passed on by Alla Bout earlier in the day.

Bout's wife said their meetings lasted 20 minutes instead of three hours as stipulated by law.

Russian Consul Andrei Dvornikov said the embassy had repeatedly filed such requests before, but to no avail. "We will certainly continue our efforts to have their meetings extended, and will file the relevant documents with the foreign and justice ministries," he said.


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