Russian Businessman Denies His Involvement in Arms Deliveries to Congo

Source: 03Nov06

The U.S. government has frozen assets of two men from the former Soviet Union. Viktor Bout and Dmitry Popov are accused of illegally supplying weapons to rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Russia Today reports.

According to a statement from the White House, the two were supplying weapons to the fighters in the east of the country using a small airline as cover. The arms were allegedly traded for illegal diamonds in Africa.

Victor Bout, businessmanVictor Bout commented on the recent actions and accusations by the American authorities' in Spotlight program on Russia Today.

"That's not first time America is freezing or blocking so called assets, although I don't have any assets in the US. Nevertheless, every time it is the same story, the same repetition. I can even call it a witch-hunt. They are accusing me since 1998 of all kinds of illegal arms trade in Africa. But even with all the power of the American administration, the CIA, the FBI and all their means like satellites, they are still not able to come with certain proof. Now the situation is very strange. Nobody approached me personally from the American administration and other entities just to check."

The businessman expressed his opinion on the UN report by a panel of experts, for instance, on alleged violations of the embargo on arms deliveries to UNITA in Angola.

"So called UN report done by the panel of experts also is very doubtful. They investigated in a very strange way. The Air Cess company, established in Liberia in 1995, was officially closed one year later. Since that moment we haven't had any operations in Liberia at all. It's easy to blame someone in the current situation without proper documents, without proof of what they are trying to say. Somebody is interested to keep this story warm."

Bout dismissed accusations that he owns an air freight company in the Congo closely tied to international arms trading networks.

"I am not the owner of the so-called Congolese company, and I don't know the half of the persons from Congo, mentioned. This story has a very strange beginning and a continuation. For eight years, everybody says I'm involved in this, blame me for that. If one tries to blame someone, he should come out, with the proof, take me to court to decide whether I'm guilty or not, or finish the investigation. I ask the new UN Secretary General to look into this investigation, the information they gathered, and the ways it was compiled. Anyone has a right to justice. The best way is to have professional investigators."

Bout shared his views about the nature of illegal weapons dealing.

"I'm a transporter. Our activities were completely OK with the law. If we come to certain country, we obtain permission from the government to arrive there with our planes. Why are they coming for me? They should ask the people who sent and received the cargo."

The businessman described as false allegations that his planes transferred Al-Qaeda gold reserves from Afghanistan to Sudan, and that he had business with Osama bin Laden.

"It's like a Hollywood movie. I'm sorry for Nicholas Cage who played there. It's a bad movie. I was in Afghanistan and met their Leaders. We had a case there. Our plane was arrested, but we haven't any dealing with Taliban. We transported a lot of commercial cargo to Afghanistan in 1996 and it's on record in Sharjah airport. The aircraft, transporting government cargo was intercepted by the Taliban and spent a year there. And then it escaped."

Bout shared his impressions of mullah Omar, one of the Taliban leaders, whom he met in the course of negotiating the release of the arrested crew.

"He is awful. If you have a leader, at least you expect to see someone, who is capable of proclaiming some ideas. These people even did not have enough ideas."

The businessman indicated he gave up the air freight business due to accusations against him. "I'm in construction business in Russia these days," he said.


Further reports and updates will be welcomed.

Back to Victor Bout's file