Treasury raises pressure on arms trafficker




By Mark Huband in London

Financial Times, 27 April 2005

The US Treasury stepped up pressure yesterday on an international arms trafficker whose role as a supplier both to regimes and rebels led to the United Nations ordering the freezing of his assets in several countries in which he operates.

Viktor Bout, a former Russian soldier who owns a fleet of aircraft that operate out of countries including the Central African Republic and the United Arab Emirates, was added to the Treasury list of individuals facing sanctions. His assets in the US will now be frozen.

Mr Bout’s main business partner in the US, Richard Chichakli, operates out of Richardson, Texas.

His listing stems from his association with Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president who, with numerous associates, was placed on a UN sanctions list last year. Mr Taylor is being sought by the UN Special Court in Sierra Leone to face charges of supporting a rebel force that committed human rights abuses and traded diamonds for guns.

The Treasury statement claimed Mr Bout earned $50m (€39m, £26m) for supplying arms to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

Juan Zarate, the Treasury’s assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes, said yesterday that “our targeted sanctions are exposing and isolating the core elements of the Bout financial empire and illicit arms pipeline. The Treasury remains committed to fulfilling our international obligations to sanction the former Charles Taylor regime by taking aggressive action against Bout front companies and agents.”

The decision to support the inclusion of Mr Bout on the UN sanctions list was taken after pressure from the French government last year. The US and Britain initially rejected his inclusion.

The Treasury decision applies to 30 companies. The airline, Air Cess, is registered in Liberia and operates out of Equatorial Guinea, the UAE, Islamabad and Uganda. The assets of 14 airlines identified by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control have been frozen, as well as those of seven holding or shell companies in Gibraltar, UAE, Equatorial Guinea and Bulgaria.

Nine companies controlled by Mr Chichakli from the US are subject to sanctions.


© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2008.