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Russia to seek repatriation of man extradited to US

By IANS/RIA Novosti,

Moscow : Russia will seek repatriation of a Russian businessman due to be extradited from Thailand to the US on arms trafficking charges, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday.

Viktor Bout, 44, a former Russian army officer, was arrested in Thailand in March 2008 under a request from the US, which accused him of illegally trading arms. Bout has repeatedly denied the charges.

In August 2009, the Bangkok Criminal Court ruled in Bout’s favour, denying the US extradition request due to lack of evidence and said the case was politically motivated. However, the US appealed the ruling and filed new charges against him.

The Thai appeals court ruled Friday to extradite Bout to the US.

“We were in contact with Viktor Bout’s lawyers and I assure you we will continue to do everything we can to repatriate Bout,” Lavrov said, terming Friday’s verdict as illegal and politically motivated.

“We regret the, in my opinion, illegal and politically motivated decision, made today by the Thai appeals court,” Lavrov said. “According to the information we have, the decision was made under pressure from an outside source.”

The US brought new charges against Bout Friday just hours before the court made its final decision.

According to the new extradition request, Bout and his former business partner, US citizen Richard Chichakli, are accused of money laundering, telegraph and internet-mediated money transfer fraud, and violating the US president’s sanctions against them.

In accordance with Thai law and an extradition agreement between Thailand and the US, Bout must be handed over to the US side within three months after the announcement of the sentence.

However, Bout’s lawyer said the new charges could prevent the extradition as a new case may have to be opened in Thailand.

Meanwhile, Bout’s wife, Alla, said the Thai authorities had caved in to US pressure.

“This is a result of constant pressure from the US government,” she said. “This is the most unfair decision because the initial court already said it’s a political case.”