One of the world’s most notorious arms dealers, suspected of supplying weapons to the Taliban and Al Qaeda and of pouring huge arms shipments into Africa’s civil wars with his own private air fleet, was arrested by Thai authorities in a hotel here Thursday. His capture was prompted by a tipoff from the United States in connection with the procurement of weapons for the Colombian FARC rebels.
When U.S. officials announce the arrest of a notorious arms dealer and drug-runner this afternoon, the fact that his planes flew U.S. supply missions in Iraq will likely go unmentioned.
In a January 2005 letter to Congress, then-Assistant Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz admitted the Defense Department “did conduct business with companies that, in turn, subcontracted work to second-tier providers who leased aircraft owned by companies associated with Mr. Bout.”
At the time, Bout was already a wanted international fugitive. Intelligence officials had considered Bout one of the greatest threats to U.S. interests, in the same league as al Qaeda kingpin Osama bin Laden. Interpol had issued a warrant for his arrest; the United Nations Security Council had restricted his travel.