Victor Bout's File

Victor Bout has been portrayed in the media as a former KGB major and arms merchant, the most notorious in the Post Cold War era and he plays (or played) a critical role in areas where the weapons trade has been embargoed by the United Nations.
Mr. Bout (pronounced "Boot") allegedly combines his legal airline activities with illegal ones. His fleet of aircraft has been based in Central African countries, South Africa and U.A.E. of Sharjah. He also operated out of Ostend, Belgium and he seems to have had connections with Mexair in Geneva (1989-1994).
While I thought nothing of it, I photographed some of his aircraft at Sharjah in 1999, but later I stumbled on his story while I tried to identify some of his aircraft (couldn't, I was subsequently informed these aircraft were carrying illegal registrations). I became fascinated by his 'outlaw' exploits and while he was being searched by media and governmental agencies, he managed to hide in the shadows and continued to run his businesses in various shapes and forms.
In 2002 he changed the name of his company, from Air Cess to Air Bas, while previously he had been operating as Centrafricain Airlines and Air Pass. After Air Bas, he changed the name of his companies again.
While Air Bas (registered in Equatorial Guinea, under cover company CET Aviation) was still current in 2004 (though no aircraft carried these titles), his company (allegedly) British Gulf International Airlines (registered in Sao Tome and a subsidiary, under the same name, in Kyrgyzstan) was reported to have landed contracts from the US (which in turn put Western Allies under pressure to get Mr Bout off the blacklists). Victor Bout gave an interview to Peter Landesman, which was published (in German) in the Süddeutsche Zeitung (no.43 24Oct03); it was reproduced on the internet (link below). Before this interview the only publicly available photo of him was secretly taken by a Belgian journalist in March 2001 on an airstrip in Congo. And his only statements had been brief denials of his role in arms trafficking. He walked out of a CNN interview in March 2002.
The spotlight followed him, a Hollywood movie starring Nicolas Cage, was allegedly based on Victor Bout's career. Interest by US law enforcement agencies seemed to fade. Douglas Farah wrote a book about him. And then VB was arrested in Bangkok, in 2008.
My interest is in his airlines, new names have been mentioned as being linked to Victor Bout. Has his business ceased upon his arrest?

Air Cess Il-18 leased to Damal Airlines
Ilyushin Il-18 of Air Cess, leased to Damal Airlines

The following information has been found in publications on the Internet:

Victor Bout and Air Foyle, UK air firm linked to sanctions buster
Africa's merchant of death
Air Cess and illegal trafficking
Ostend Airport involved in Arms Running
Connection between a Boeing 707, Afghan Warlord Rashid Dostum and V.Bout
The criminal stories of the good soldier Bout
In connection with Al Qaeda !
An investigation into the illicit diamond trade
violation of the sanctions against UNITA, a UN Security Council Report
Africa's Merchant of Death sold Arms to the Taliban
Victor Bout, Al-Qaida and Slovak contacts
2002: Key African arms dealer arrested
Victor Anatoliyevich Bout
The Lone Wolf
Bout Linked to Taliban Gold
Named and Shamed, diamond dealings in Africa
Air Cess to Air Bas to ..... ?
V.Bout: US Trading Partner (by Kathryn Cramer)
Victor Bout's American Connection
Arms and the Man, an interview by Peter Landesman discussed
Victor Bout, US Trading Partner (by Michael Scherer, sep.2004)
Viktor Bout in the movies
UK aid flights linked to arms dealer
Air Bas: subcontractor for the US
KBR subcontracting Air Bas
Connected: Aerocom, Jet Line and Air Mero
More on: Jet Line, Irbis Airlines, Air Bas, British Gulf Int'l and Falcon Express Cargo
V.Bout and the US Dept of Treasury
Bloggers' update on V.Bout
More airline names connected to V.Bout
Kosmas Air, no connection to VB
Democratic Republic of Congo: a sad State of Affiars
New Names surface as linked to V.Bout
Tom's Freedom of Information Request
Operation Firedump
Viktor Bout and the Pentagon
Naming Names and Other Queries
US Treasury sanctions Congo firms for arms trade (Mar.2007)
Is Galaxy Air a new V.Bout airline?
Victor Bout: where did he go? To jail...
Click Airways
This World/BBC documentary about Victor Bout
Wikileaks reveals new name of V Bout airline: Wing Air

External links:

Ostend Airport arm's connection
Fatal Transactions, a profile
UN Special report S/2001/1015
Viktor Bout receives US Aid for services rendered in Iraq
Wanted in Africa, Needed in Iraq
Arms and the Man, by Peter Landesman (17Aug2003)
Making a Killing - The Business of War
War and Piece, commentary by Laura Rozen, Int'l News and Commentary
Victor Bout Bloggers
The Yorkshire Ranter on V.Bout
Richard Chichakli strikes back, in defense of himself and V.Bout
Viktor Bout on
Dead on Time arms transportation, brokering and ... (Amnesty Int'l May 2006)
Douglas Farah on Viktor Bout, Foreign Policy Magazine, Nov/Dec 2006 (.pdf document)
Merchant of Death, the book. By Douglas Farah & Stephen Braun
The Bout – Tokoph – Sangue – Riis-connection, by Herman J. Berge
Notes on a crash (An-12 S9-SVN)
International Peace Information Service
Daniel Estulin, investigative journalist, considers Bout a victim

The book... Former West African Bureau Chief of the Washington Post Douglas Farah and Los Angeles Times National Correspondent Stephen Braun detail how a small circle of U.S. officials and international investigators worked doggedly to shut down Viktor Bout's arms pipelines, only to be trumped by Bout's ingenuity and by their own inability-and, in some cases, unwillingness-to confront the dark side of the new world order.
Published in 2007:

Shelley Saywell wrote, directed and produced in 2008 a documentary about the 'small arms trade'. Small arms are the real weapons of mass destruction, killing more than half a million people a year, spreading like a disease and destabilizing entire regions.

Shelly Saywell's "Devil's Bargain"

When 200.000 AK-47s go missing from Bosnia, activists call for an international treaty to curb the trade. But it is blocked by the Superpowers! Loopholes "big enough for an Antonov to fly through" continue to allow the flow of guns that destabilize our world...

While my dossier has its focus clearly on VB and his fleet of aircraft, one should realize who are the real 'merchants of death': US, Russia, UK, France, Israel, China, Germany, Italy (in order of importance). They have flooded Africa with weapons and ammunitions for decades and continue to do so.
The US also refuses or is late in participation of treaties and agreements to reduce items such as landmines. President Obama signed a law on 11Mar09 that permanently bans nearly all cluster bomb exports from the United States. This moves the United States one step closer to the position of the 95 states (!) who have already signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, renouncing the use, production and trade of this weapon forever.

The Shadow World - Inside the Global Arms Trade, investigative journalism by Andrew Feinstein

This massive effort by Andrew Feinstein to dissect the global arms trade has resulted in a thoroughly fascinating book and a hugely important document. A monument in investigative journalism.

While the larger defence contractors like BAE and Lockheed Martin - the formal industry working hand-in-glove with government - would have us believe they are distinct from and should not be tarred with the same brush as the apparently shadier world of the black and grey trades, the reality is different.
The formal and clandestine worlds interact and intersect far more regularly than they would admit. And their dependence on each other is profound.
Both form, in effect, the shadow world.

While some form of arms industry is required in the dangerous and unpredictable world we inhabit, its special status and its intersection with the grey or black criminal world result in enormous costs to ordinary citizens and taxpayers, as the case of Lockheed Martin so amply demonstrates.

Even the jobs produced by the arms trade cost significantly more to create and sustain than in any sector (e.g. education or care), with larger amounts of public money spent on them.

There is a fundamental consequence too: the diminution of democracies where they exist, and the entrenchment of undemocratic, often barbarous states, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.
National security concerns, while sometimes legitimate, are often used to hide information about malfeasance that would in no way undermine security.

The global desire for weapons and matériel shows little sign of abating, despite the economic difficulties of the past few years in most developed countries.
There will be no change in the way in which the arms trade operates unless the biggest producer and consumer of weapons, the USA, is willing to change.
The reality is that the 'Sheriff of Global Democracy' is in no way an example of morality, what with the war in Iraq started under falls pretense (G.W. Bush Administration), disregard to national sovereignty during rendition programs, continued disregard for human rights as publicly displayed by the US detention center on US Naval Base Guantanamo Bay and increased persecution of whistleblowers by the Obama Administration (in fact a follow up policy to the statement made by G.W. Bush: "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists").
Not a country whom we should expect to set a good example.

During the course of the 20th century, the trade in arms made viable and fuelled conflicts that cost the lives of 231 million people.
The first decade of the 21st century has, if anything, been more violent.

Closing with a quote from Naom Chomsky- "This shocking exposé unveils a shadow world of corruption, greed, slaughter, and other horrors, tawdry and gruesome in its criminality. It must be brought to a quick and final end."
Review on The Guardian
Andrew Feinstein on Wikipedia


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Created: 03-8-02
Last updated 12.Mar.2009