Viktor Bout, the “Merchant of Death,” a Russian aviation tycoon suspected as leader of the world’s largest weapons trafficking network, was convicted on Nov. 2, 2011 on federal charges of conspiracy to aid a terrorist organization, deliver anti-aircraft missiles and kill American citizens and U.S. officials. Bout was sentenced to a 25-year prison term on April 5, 2012. After years of eluding authorities, Bout, 44 at the time of his sentencing, was arrested in Bangkok by U.S. and Thai law enforcement agents on March 6, 2008. Bout was targeted by a year-long sting operation by federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents and undercover informants posing as South American terrorists. He endured two years in a Bangkok prison until Thai authorities extradited him to the U.S. in November, 2010. Over two decades, Bout, a former Soviet military officer, amassed a fleet of more than 60 transport planes, hundreds of companies and a fortune reportedly in excess of $6 billion. His aircraft flew from Afghanistan to South America, carrying anything from raw minerals to gladiolas, drilling equipment to frozen fish. But their stock in trade, according to authorities, were black market arms — assault rifles, ammunition, anti-aircraft missiles, helicopter gunships and a full range of sophisticated weapons systems. His clients included dictators like Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, Liberia’s Charles Taylor and Zaire’s Mobutu Sesse Seko. His planes flew both for the Taliban mullahs who once ruled Afghanistan and for the U.S. military and the Bush administration’s reconstruction in Iraq. Before his 2008 arrest, Bout had been targeted by the UN with an international travel ban and by the U.S with a financial assets freeze for violations of weapons embargoes in Africa. Sentenced on Feb. 8, 2012, Bout is now serving his 25-year sentence at a medium-security federal penitentiary in Marion, Ill. “Merchant of Death” tells the full story of Viktor Bout’s rise and his pursuit by a determined band of international sleuths — a hunt that finally led to the U.S. sting that brought about his arrest and conviction. In September 2018, Wonderfilm Media Corp. and partner Anthony Zuiker, creator of the CSI crime television series, announced they had acquired the media rights to “Merchant of Death” for development as a TV series.