Lawyers for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout are trying before a federal appeals court in Manhattan to overturn his 2011 conviction for conspiring to sell weapons to government informants masquerading at Colombian rebels.
Bout’s legal team appeared before judges of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a renewed effort to obtain a new trial for Bout, who has spent the last four years in a federal medium-security prison in Marion, Illinois on charges that he conspired to kill U.S. nationals and officials and acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles.
Bout lost an earlier appeal before the judges in 2013 and his trial judge, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin, denied his motion for a new trial in 2015. Bout’s legal team is urging the appeals court to overturn Scheindlin’s ruling.
One Bout lawyer, Alexey Tarasov, insisted there was no conspiracy because the government’s main informant, Andrew Smulian, was already working for agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration when they launched a string operation against the Russian in 2007 and 2008. DEA and Thai police agents arrested Bout in Bangkok in March 2008, and the U.S. and Russian governments conducted a diplomatic tug-of-war before Thailand extradited the suspect to New York in 2010.
Federal prosecutors denied that that investigators used Smulian as an informant before he was rounded up in the same operation that led to Bout’s arrest in 2008.