Alleged Russian arms trafficker Victor Bout denied that he had any links to the al Qaeda terrorist network of Osama bin Laden and no role in shipping weapons to Afghanistan.
In a statement issued last Friday in Moscow and in broadcast comments repeated on Monday, Bout denied allegations, including those levied by the United Nations, that he is a global arms dealer.
“For the record, I am not, and never have been, associated with al Qaeda, the Taliban or any of their officials, officers, or related organizations,” Bout said, according to a copy of the statement released in the United States by one of his associates. “I am not, nor are any of my organizations, associated with arms traffickers and/or trafficking or the sale of arms of kind [sic] anywhere in the world. I am not, nor is any member of my family, associated with any military or intelligence organizations of any country.”
Belgian authorities in February issued an international arrest warrant for Bout on money laundering charges. Bout also has been named in four reports by the United Nations for his alleged role in shipping weapons to conflict zones in Africa.
The Center for Public Integrity published an extensive report on Bout’s alleged role in weapons trafficking on January 31. Repeated efforts to get comment from Bout, who until last week’s statement had been elusive and unresponsive to the media, were unsuccessful.
Reports about Bout have appeared in other media outlets.
Bout acknowledged that in his statement, saying that he had chosen to remain silent for fear that “responding to such false and unfounded allegations could help make such wrong accusations appear legitimate.”
But Bout said he now wanted to clear his name and told CNN on Monday that he was not afraid of being arrested. “This whole story looks to me like a witch hunt,” Bout said.
This is a copy of a statement released in Moscow and sent to the Center for Public Integrity by a U.S. associate of Victor Bout:
In response to the recent published reports concerning Victor Bout
For nearly a year, I have been facing the barrage of allegations of wrong doing published in the media. Fearing that responding to such false and unfounded allegations could help make such wrong accusations appear legitimate or bring substance to a poorly created story, I elect to remain silent, waiting for the truth to prevail.
Unfortunately, fed by the relentless frenzy by certain media and news organizations over capturing the headline and creating a story, the absence of my response was used to place me, or any of my businesses, into any place where a “scapegoat” or someone to blame was needed. I have been silently watching my family, friends, associates, and the countries that provided me with an opportunity to conduct honest business, hurt and harassed, and the cargo business I spent years to build dissipate into dust. All of this occurred without a shred of evidence, other than the questionable testimonies of thugs and untrustworthy characters that directly benefited from having a scapegoat.
For the record, I am not, and never have been, associated with al Qaeda, the Taliban or any of their officials, officers, or related organizations. I am not, nor are any of my organizations, associated with arms traffickers and/or trafficking or the sale of arms of kind anywhere in the world. I am not, nor is any member of my family, associated with any military or intelligence organizations of any country.
I am a father, a husband, a friend, and an entrepreneur, who worked hard for everything I had, which has been destroyed due to the impact of these stories. I challenge anyone with legitimate evidence to come forward and put on trial what they have in a court of law, instead of through manipulated media and conspired groups.
What I have seen and read in the media during the last month or two is nothing less than madness. Taking advantage of the recent unfortunate events in the United States, some news organizations have recklessly and intentionally fabricated stories which continue to snowball away from reality, despite the inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and untruths in both the initial report and follow-up reports. I appeal to you to reexamine the story and use nothing more than common sense to separate fact from fiction.
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