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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, most likely, if the last hearings are held on May 19, the verdict may 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. authorities for political reasons.

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

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."


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