A notorious US at the center of the prisoner swap involving US basketball player Brittney Griner on Thursday has reopened old wounds around the world, including in Uganda.
After completing 12 years of a 25-year prison sentence, Mr. Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death,” was freed. When his business was at its height, Mr. Bout sold weapons to Uganda and secretly transported them via Entebbe International Airport to conflict zones.
According to a United Nations (UN) report, he regularly used Uganda as a route for the weapons he was smuggling, notably to West Africa.
A UN investigation from 2000 found that Mr. Bout interacted with people from Rwanda and Uganda. The Russian was involved in the trade of diamonds from the Democratic Republic of Congo that had been mined illegally.
His association with Uganda officials is highlighted in the UN Security Council report from 2002 titled “Plundering of DR Congo Natural Resources: Final Report of the Panel of Experts.”
The Victor Bout international group is still a part of the network, just like in the past. The non-operational airline business Okapi Air, situated in Uganda, was recently acquired by Mr. Bout. Victor Bout was able to use Okapi’s licenses because of the company’s purchase. After that, the business was renamed Odessa, according to the report.
The report continues by stating that, the panel owned a list of departures from Entebbe International Airport from 1998 to the start of 2002’ which validates the operating activity of Mr. Bout’s aircraft from Ugandan territory.
The wife of Lt General Salim Saleh owns Planet Air, which facilitates Mr. Bout’s activities by filing flight plans for his aircraft. Planet Air shares the flight times and destinations with Mr. Bout’s aircraft at that moment.
The investigation also disclosed that Mr. Bout operated a covert cargo aircraft under the cover of a covert airline.
It continues by stating that, according to OpenSactions, an open-source database of sanctions data, politically exposed persons, and other entities of interest, Air Cess designated as the flagship corporation of Victor Bout’s network had activities in Entebbe.
It was discovered in 1995, but investigations by authorities in Belgium, Swaziland, and South Africa revealed that it had to be transferred more than once since then.
The only business in Mr. Bout’s network to ever list him as its CEO was that one. Through a collaboration with a South African company, he founded Air Pass in Swaziland. Air Cess had a 90% ownership stake in this joint company. 90% of the Air Pass shares were owned by Mr. Bout, according to the records.
At some time in the 1990s, Viktor Bout reportedly granted his brother Sergei Bout control over the everyday operations of Air Cess.
The Thai city of Bangkok is where Mr. Bout was taken into custody. He was deported to the United States two years later, where he served 12 years in prison for attempting to help terrorists and kill Americans.
His acts served as the basis for the Hollywood movie Lord of War, which was released in 2005.
Moscow announced on Thursday that it had Exchanged American basketball player Brittney Griner, who had been imprisoned in Russia, for renowned arms dealer Viktor Bout.
According to the statement from the foreign ministry, Russian citizen Viktor Bout was successfully exchanged for American citizen Brittney Griner on December 8, 2022, at the Abu Dhabi airport.
Russia’s FSB security service released photographs and video of the two being led past one another on the tarmac at the airport in Abu Dhabi during the exchange. However, the video breaks off as they pass and there is no footage of them interacting.
The 32-year-old Griner was detained in Moscow airport for having vape cartridges containing cannabis oil just before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February.
The deal, which was the second in eight months amid tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, won the release of one of the most well-known Americans held abroad and helped President Joe Biden accomplish a major strategic objective. However, it came at what American officials called a high cost.