March 7th, 2008 05:21 EST
'Merchant of Death' faces Thailand, Russia and U.S.
Thailand says it will investigate a Russian man for illegal arms deals before it deports him to the United States where he is accused of trying to sell weapons to a rebel group in Colombia.
Authorities brought Viktor Bout before reporters Friday in Bangkok, a day after he was arrested at a luxury hotel.
U.S. officials want Bout extradited after federal prosecutors in New York charged him with conspiring to provide material support to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. But Thai authorities say prosecutors have yet to decide if Bout will first face trial in their country on charges of giving weapons and financial support to terrorists.
Bout faces up to 10 years in a Thai prison if convicted.
The 41-year-old ex-Soviet air force officer has been accused of trafficking weapons to war-torn countries, especially in Central and West Africa. One of his alleged clients was former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who is now on trial for war crimes. Bout also was suspected of selling arms to Islamic extremists in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
His alleged activities have earned him the nickname "Merchant of Death."
Bout has been investigated in several countries, but has never been prosecuted.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.