Who is “Merchant of Death” Victor Booth, who replaced Britney Griner in the US?

Russian illegal arms dealer Victor Booth, known as the “Merchant of Death,” was in a prisoner swap between the United States and Russia on Dec. 8 for the safe return of WNBA star Brittney Griner.

Booth has been in US custody since a 2008 undercover operation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration captured him in Thailand.

The opportunity to replace Booth and Griner came in May as he was about to serve a 25-year sentence in federal prison for conspiring to sell tens of millions of dollars in weapons for use against Americans. to the US authorities.

It’s hard to separate fact from fiction when it comes to arms dealer resumes, rather than Booth’s reputation. His early life is unknown, but he is believed to have been born in 1967 in the then Soviet Union of Tajikistan. Bout trained as a linguist at the Moscow Military Institute before serving as an interpreter in Angola with the Red Army.

Like many oligarchs and tycoons who emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Bout took advantage of the economic chaos that followed.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the military equipment belonging to the superpower was dispersed among the 15 new countries created by the breakup. These countries had neither the money to maintain an army nor the infrastructure to maintain an inventory of the weapons they inherited.

Russian arms dealer Victor Booth may be involved in a prisoner swap to bring Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan back to the United States.

Victor Booth saw an opportunity.

Booth assembled a fleet of ex-Soviet cargo planes – the giant Antonovs and Ilyushins – and began shipping weapons and other goods around the world.

Booth came to American attention in the late 1990s for supplying weapons to the war zones of Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone. This was reported by the New York Times.

But Western intelligence, including the CIA, tracked him in the early 1990s as his African convoys moved everything from flowers and chickens to UN peacekeepers and African heads of state.

Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout is behind bars.
Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout was arrested in the United States in 2008.

In the following decades, his client list grew. Bout reportedly supplied arms to Hezbollah According to The Guardian. He reportedly supplied weapons to both the Taliban and his enemies in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance. He even won a contract through the previous company FedEx package delivery to Baghdad.

Booth’s film exploits are occasionally cited as the inspiration for the 2005 Nicolas Cage film Lord of War. The film tells the story of Yuri, a fictional arms dealer of Russian origin who runs a large-scale arms-dealing operation around the world.

Booth was arrested in Thailand in 2008 where he was recruited by US DEA agents Appears as Colombian rebels. He was extradited to the U.S. in 2010 over Russian objections and eventually convicted by a Manhattan judge in 2011 of conspiring to sell weapons to a designated foreign terrorist group.


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