Appeal Court verdict on the extradition of Bout

Source: Excerpt from a Court of Appeals ruling ordering extradition of Viktor Bout to the US, under the Extradition Act and the Extradition Act between the Kingdom of Thailand the United States.

The public prosecutors heard a request for extradition of Viktor Bout, or Boris, or Viktor Bulakin, or Vadim Macovich Aminov, a Defendant under the Extradition Act and the Extradition Act between the Kingdom of Thailand the United States to face a US indictment on US soil, at the request of the US ambassador to Thailand, through the Foreign Ministry and the Thai government, and agrees to proceed further as requested,

The facts have it that, the Defendant had conspired with the "FuerZas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia Ejercito del Pueblo" (FARC), who are left-wing militants based in Colombia, and regarded by the US State Department as a terrorist organisation, in order to escort transport of illegal narcotics using violence, bomb attacks, massacres, kidnappings and murder  of US citizens or carrying out any acts against the interests of the US, in order to interrupt US operations that suppress production and dealing of heroin.

Charged with following offences:

1 Criminal conspiracy in committing murders, provision and supplying of weapons and terrorist training with intent to kill US citizens;

2 Criminal conspiracy in committing murders of US government employees and officials;

3 Criminal conspiracy in providing and supplying anti-aircraft weapons, and

4 Criminal conspiracy in providing strategic support to international terrorist groups in their crimes committed in the Netherlands, Denmark, the Russian Federation, Romania, and Colombia, all of which are crimes not relating to political or military issues under US laws.

The Defendant has objected to the request for extradition, saying those crimes are politically motivated or military-related, thus preventing him from being extradited. In addition, the indictments themselves that the Defendant countered are obscure.

The lower court (Criminal Court) heard the public prosecutors' request and dropped it, and ordered the release of the Defendant within 72 hours.

The public prosecutors' appeal was accepted, on November 10, 2009.

The Court of Appeals had agreed that under the 1990 Extradition Act between the Kingdom of Thailand and the United States, which was enacted under No 2 of the Thai-US Extradition Treaty, crimes eligible for extradition must be in violation of laws of both countries, through imprisonment or other forms of detention with term lasting for more than one year. No 3 stipulates that no extradition could be enforced if crimes committed are:

a) politically-motivated or

b) extradition are requested apparentlyfor political gains,

c) crimes are military-related.

On March 5, 2008, the Foreign Ministry informed the Interior Ministry of a request by the US Embassy to Thailand asking for the extradition of the Defendant, to face indictments against him by the Southern District Court of New York, which had issued warrants against him for criminal conspiracy in the murder of US citizens, or US employees and officials, provision and acquisition of anti-aircraft missiles, and supplying weapons to terrorist organisations, all of which are punishable by imprisonment longer than one year.

The case was lodged when the 1929 Extradition Act was in effect, and was proceeded further when the 2008 Extradition Act was later in effect. The new Act's Article 33 stipulates that the case brought up before 2008 must be processed under the old Act, whose Article 17 Paragraph 2 says that the Court of Appeals cannot alter the lower courts' decisions which is based on sufficient evidence, but can only rule whether those decisions are in fact based on evidence supplied during the trial, on the following conditions, which Court of Appeals can inspect further and argue against.

1 Nationalities of defendants

2 Crimes not qualifying for extradition

3 Crimes are based on political motives, or extradition is intended to achieve political gains

4 No witnesses or evidence are present during lower courts' trials

The Court of Appeals' scrutiny comes under No 2 above, to decide whether the four offences filed against the Defendant by the Southern District Court of New York, that carry imprisonment longer than one year, are also punishable under Thai laws.

Comparing the US laws and the [Thai] Criminal Code, all four offences are violation of Articles 135/1, 135/2, and 135/3 all of which are acts of terrorism, although not all of them are committed on US soil, but the Code's Article 7 punishes all crimes regardless of countries where they are committed, all the offences are, therefore, qualified for extradition.

The next scrutiny is whether the crimes are politically motivated. In the lower court's trial, US Drug Enforcement Administration agent Robert Harry Vasevich, the chief investigator, testified that the Defendant was one of the biggest arms dealer in the world, and presented evidence showing that the Defendant had transported goods and weapons to many countries with armed conflicts, supplied weapons to one organisation to fight another, or organisations to fight state authorities to make profits. The testimonies showed that FARC had fought the Colombia authorities for decades to dislodge democratically elected governments while producing and dealing around 75 per cent of heroin in that country, and using drug profits to fight the state authorities. As a result, FARC is regarded a terrorist organisation which committed a series of crimes in large numbers. This organisation has been committing, over a decade, crimes against the US, including murders of US citizens based in Colombia, with the support of the Defendant, who has been charged with the four offences, as a result.

Weerachai Phalasai, director-general of the Foreign Ministry's protocol department, testified that illegal arms dealing was not a politics-related crime. The Court of Appeals concludes that the Defendant does not belong to FARC, and not wanted by Colombia where FARC is based, and therefore rules against the lower court's decision over this matter. The public prosecutor's appeal on this point has grounds.

The final scrutiny is over whether the evidence is sufficient to order detention of the Defendant pending extradition. Vasevich's testimony showed a conversation between Bout and a US undercover agent in a sting in which the Defendant said that he had hundreds of anti-aircraft missiles ready to be sold to FARC to shoot down US war planes flying Colombian troops to combat FARC militants - an attack intended to demoralise the US government and may result in evaculation of US citizens based in Colombia back to the US. This, along with other pieces of evidence, has prompted the district attorney in New York, and later the Southern District Court, to indict the Defendant.

A Foreign Ministry official, Satawut Kulwanich, had certified authentication of all US documents in the court process. The Court of Appeals regards that all testimonies and evidence supplied by the prosecutors are sufficient to order the detention of the Defendant pending extradition.

As for the Defendant's excuse that he never sold weapons to FARC, it would be discussed and examined during trial in the US court with jurisdiction over the indictments.

The Court of Appeals now rules that the public prosecutor's appeals on all crucial points have grounds and are eligible to order the detention of the Defendant pending extradition, under Articles 12 and 15 of the 1929 Extradition Act. The Defendant shall be released, if not extradited within 90 days since this verdict is read out, under Article 15 of the 1929 Extradition Act.

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