Posts Tagged ‘Viktor Bout’

Repent at Leisure

June 23, 2012

Viktor Bout update

A recent check of the US Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator web service indicates that Comrade Bout currently resides at USP Marion in Barack Obama’s home state of Illinois.

USP Marion — new prison camp facility

The United States Penitentiary (USP) in Marion, Illinois, is a medium security facility housing male inmates and should be considered an FCI Medium. The facility also has an adjacent satellite prison camp that houses minimum security male offenders.  Although designed as a USP and the facility’s official name continues to refer to it as such, this [facility] underwent institution population changes to accommodate [BOP]’s bed space capacity, security level, and population management needs. This institution houses medium security inmates and operates accordingly.

What the Bureau of Prisons is attempting to convey –in its somewhat stilted official language– is that USP Marion is no longer a hardcore, 24/7-lockdown, supermax prison.  From its inauguration in 1963 until 2006, Marion was the highest-security prison facility in the BOP system.  Nowadays, solitary confinement is uncommon there, but …

USP Marion is home to one of two known “Communication Management Units” (CMU) in the federal prison system. The [BOP] created Communication Management Units in response to criticism that it had not been adequately monitoring the communications of prisoners. CMU units severely restrict visitation rights for inmates and monitor all telephone calls and mail.  “Concentrating resources in this fashion will greatly enhance the agency’s capabilities for language translation, content analysis and intelligence sharing,” according to the Bureau’s summary of the CMU.

Apparently, the BOP believes that this is the place to stash convicted spies; Christopher Boyce, John Anthony Walker, and Jonathan Pollard all served time at Marion.  They’re gone now, so Inmate Bout will have a chance to improve his Arabic language skills instead: many of Marion’s current inmates are “Arab Muslims convicted of terrorism crimes.”

 

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Transit of Viktor

June 9, 2012

For just about everybody except a handful of Russians and the US Bureau of Prisons, Viktor Bout has been out of sight and out of mind for a few months.  Even Lunghu –one of Viktor’s most avid fans– forgot to check up on his whereabouts.  Well, wonder no more:  last week Lunghu took a peek at the BOP’s Inmate Locator website and learned that Comrade Bout is temporarily housed at FTC (Federal Transit Center) Oklahoma City, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain, etc.

Unless the BOP is just having a little fun by bouncing Inmate #91641-054 around the vast Continental United States from region to region, this suggests that Viktor may be destined for a long-term residence somewhere in the BOP’s South Correctional Region.  The map above shows that there are quite a few locations for BOP to choose from –most of them warm and sunny (or hot and sweltering, if you prefer).  Although Lunghu is somewhat disappointed that FCI Fairton thus appears to be out of the picture, he’s gonna cast an alternate vote for FCI La Tuna.  This facility is located near El Paso, Texas and thus has the advantage of being close to the DEA’s El Paso Intelligence Center and not too far from the US Army’s Fort Huachuca intelligence complex.  The possibilities are legion.

Of course, there’s still much to be done while Inmate Bout is temporarily in Oklahoma City.  Given the ongoing (entirely unofficial) Viktor Bout ransom negotiations, Lunghu considers Bout’s presence in OKC to be a broad-and-none-too-veiled hint to Comrade Bear that Gazprom is expected to pony up some sort of energy-sector assistance for its beleaguered colleagues Aubrey McClendon and Chesapeake Energy.  Perhaps we can anticipate announcement of a joint venture exploration/development deal somewhere on the vast Eurasian continent.

 

All reasonable offers will be considered.  Remember:  seldom is heard a discouraging word/and the skies are not cloudy all day, etc.

 

Ransom Is As Ransom Does

April 13, 2012

When Lunghu heard last week that VTB Bank executives were coming to Manhattan for a meeting with prospective investors hosted by Citibank, his second thought was: “Well, it looks like the ransom negotiations for Viktor Bout are finally underway in earnest!”  [In case you were wondering, Lunghu’s first thought was: “What imperialist-capitalist in his right mind would invest in VTB?”  After all, its shares are currently worth about 7 kopecks each, and its core business seems to consist of laundering assets for Comrade Bear and his kleptocrat cronies.]

This week, there have been further signs that Putin, Sechin, et al. are ready to open up the treasure chest in order to repatriate their faithful(?) retainer, Comrade Bout.  What does Russia have that the US wants?  The usual.  Oil.

There will be no export duties for new hydrocarbon development projects on the Russian continental shelf, President-elect Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.  “There should be a special stimulating taxation system for shelf projects scheduled for implementation. We have made a decision to fully lift the export duty for new shelf projects,” Putin said at a government meeting.
“We also suggest lifting property tax and value-added tax on unique imported equipment which Russia does not manufacture, for all new [energy development] projects regardless of the complexity level,” the prime minister added.

 

“We expect the world’s largest corporations will partner with our Russian companies on the shelf,” said Putin without naming any specific Western firms.  All private companies — both Russian and foreign — currently have to team up with either Rosneft or Gazprom and allow the state firms to control at least 50 percent of any offshore deal.  Rosneft last year signed a deal to develop three Kara Sea oil fields with the US supermajor ExxonMobil, [which] has since lobbied for cuts in export duties that could help justify the enormous expense of developing the fields.

When Exxon talks, presidents listen.

Oh. While you’re at it, just one other thing …

Russia supports the US pick to lead the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Friday.  “Taking into account professional qualities, experience and the competencies of Mr Kim, Russia will support the candidacy of Jim Yong Kim in the vote of the World Bank’s board,” Siluanov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency after meeting the US candidate.

 

And … since things are going so well, how about a quiet, private chat next month?

The United States wants to hold a separate summit with Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Group of Eight meeting at Camp David in May, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday.
“The Americans want a separate, independent Russian-American summit,” Lavrov was quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency as saying after returning from a G8 foreign minister meeting in Washington.
Putin will receive an official briefing on the US proposal after he is inaugurated on May 7 for a third term as Russian president.     “We will report to the president when he assumes his powers,” Lavrov said.
“We are disposed to have continuity in relations, to continue to seek further spheres of shared interests — of which there are many —  and where interests coincide, to agree on moving forward,” he said.

By all means, where interests coincide, agree on moving forward.  Progress always comes at a price.

 

Wholly Thursday

April 6, 2012

Judge Shira has spoken, and Viktor Bout has been sentenced to 25 years in federal prison.  The fact that this is the minimum sentence mandated by law ought to tell you something about what the judge thinks of the federal government’s case.  In her remarks at sentencing, Judge Scheindlin came just about as close to calling it outright entrapment as judicial ethics will permit:

 “But for the approach made through this determined sting operation, there is no reason to believe Bout would ever have committed the charged crimes,” Scheindlin said.  The judge also ordered a $15 million forfeiture.

It’s not clear where Bout is expected to come up with that kind of money, especially since those “FARC operatives” never did buy any of his cargo planes.   Perhaps the SDNY prosecutors’ sentencing memo explicitly identified the location and magnitude of Bout’s overseas assets in order to justify forfeiture.   Lunghu kinda doubts it:  the sources and methods by which such information would be obtained are considered more valuable than the paltry $15 million nobody will ever collect.   Perhaps Rosboronexport will just have to build that cost into the price of those Hind helicopters that Afghanistan is buying with U.S. aid money.

Where do we go from here?  Bout’s attorney —Albert Dayanwill appeal the conviction.   The U.S. Bureau of Prisons will choose a new, semi-permanent home for Viktor Bout (probably after the Easter weekend, unless the U.S. Marshals are looking for an overtime detail).  And sometime later in the month, we’ll know from the BOP Inmate Locator service where Viktor is housed.  Just a reminder:  Lunghu is rooting for Fairton FCI.

In the meantime, certain people will undoubtedly encourage Comrade Bout to be more talkative and forthcoming.  There will be plenty of time to reflect and reminisce, to chat beside the steaming samovar and recall times gone by.  It’s always the little things that count.

Vee is for Viktor

February 25, 2012

Perhaps it was the grudging recognition that Defenders of the Fatherland are to be honored once a year  –on February 23rd.  Perhaps it was a minor twinge of judicial conscience.  Or maybe something else.  Whatever the reason …

Judge Shira Scheindlin ordered [Viktor Bout] to be moved from solitary confinement to a prison’s general population Friday, an unusual move in a courthouse where judges usually leave those decisions to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.  She rejected arguments by the government that Bout [as a convicted terrorism conspirator] was a danger within the prison: “This case differs significantly from a standard terrorism case,” the judge wrote.  Scheindlin observed that Bout was approached by government agents posing as members of a terrorist organization and there was no evidence at trial that Bout had any connection to terrorists.

She also dismissed claims by the government that Bout could acquire vast resources to escape or harm people, saying the claims were “simply not supported by any evidence.”  Scheindlin also noted there was no evidence that Bout engaged in violent acts or was more than a businessman engaged in arms trafficking.

Gee, what with all this lack of actual evidence, chances of a successful appeal might be looking pretty good.  But before any appeal, first there must be a sentencing.  March 12th … until otherwise noted.  And then the federal Bureau of Prisons will no longer be bound by the judge’s orders.  Should be interesting.

 

 

Active Shooter

February 9, 2012

Q:  When should you listen to a Russian with a gun?  A:  Almost always.  At the very least, listen.

The Russian Olympic shooting team is suffering because the sport is still run along Soviet lines and needs a “revolution” to save it, two-time European champion double trap shooter Vasily Mosin warned Thursday. “Our driving force, Soviet sport, is quietly starting to slow down,” Mosin said.  “The world’s moving forward in leaps and bounds and we are trying to evolve. We need some revolutionary approaches.  The remarks that we hear from the athletes every time, all these remarks say that a systemic crisis really does exist. .. When I hear the problems that were described today, it’s so sad it brings me to tears,” he said.”

credit: Max Bogodvid

A sentimental Russian with a gun.  Scary.  Are you listening, Comrade Bear?

Meanwhile, further afield …

President Dmitry Mevedev met on Thursday with diplomats from the Russian Foreign Ministry ahead of Russian Diplomat’s Day, celebrated on February 10.

Mevedev said he often hears complaints about ineffective and untimely help from Russian diplomats abroad.  Russian diplomats should resort to more effective measures in protecting the interests of their compatriots in complex situations abroad, the President said.  “It is important to resort to measures concerning the protection of interests and dignity of Russian citizens abroad, particularly of those who under various circumstances, even accidental ones, get into trouble,” Medvedev told the diplomats.

notice the way everyone is avoiding that trapdoor in the middle of the floor?

Ostensibly, Medvedev’s remarks were made in the context of the recent failure of Lanta-Tour, a large Russian tourist agency that went bankrupt, failed to pay  hotel reservations and airline tickets, and left thousands of Russians stranded abroad.  However, maybe Comrade Cub also had something else in mind …

Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Thursday,  “The decision of the Federal Court in New York to reject the appeal of Viktor Bout’s lawyers against the guilty verdict raises serious questions about the independence and credibility of the American judicial system.”  “We will continue to demand provision of the normal conditions for the detention of a Russian citizen including the implementation of court’s decisions on revising the detention regime,” Lukashevich added.   The defense had insisted on the absence of direct evidence proving a conspiracy to murder U.S. citizens and officials.  Sentencing is scheduled for March 12.

Lunghu fully appreciates that there’s not much the consul can do once a judicial verdict has been reached.  But in the view of the guy inside, this still counts as ” ineffective and untimely help from Russian diplomats.”   He may still be holding a few hole cards, though …

There’s Always Tomorrow

February 7, 2012

The day we’ve all been waiting for has not yet arrived –and it won’t be here tomorrow, either.  That’s because …

A [federal] court in New York has postponed the sentencing of Russian national Viktor Bout, who was found guilty of arms trafficking last November.  The court was to deliver its sentence on February 8, 2012, but the session was postponed as prosecutors failed to give their response to one of the defense team’s two motions.  No details were available on Tuesday.

Lunghu wonders whether certain mitigating factors are being taken into consideration during the course of consultations between Judge Shira Scheindlin and SDNY prosecutors.  Bout’s attorney, Albert Dayan, appears to be lobbying for a lighter sentence:

Lawyer Albert Dayan compares Bout’s “barbarian” incarceration conditions [at MCC] to those of the Count of Monte Cristo, a fictional creation of novelist Alexandre Dumas who spent 14 years in a prison cell.  Dayan says his client … has to spend “days and nights” in solitary confinement and is denied “basic, God-given rights like fresh air and sunshine.”

Actually, Albert, fourteen years would be considerably under the sentencing guidelines for the federal charges on which Bout was convicted.  Good luck with that.

On the brighter side, FCI Fairton gets plenty of sunshine and fresh South Jersey air.  Better than Lewisburg or Allenwood.

Return Bout

February 1, 2012

Lunghu really didn’t intend to piss anybody off by casually blogging about the latest product line from Izhmash and the company’s sales incentive practices.  And surely it’s just a coincidence that Izhmash has only recently gained access to a surprising new market for its iconic products:  United States law enforcement agencies.

Izhmash, the manufacturer of the legendary Kalashnikov AK-47, will supply Saiga-12 semi-automatic smoothbore shotguns to a number of police forces in the U.S.  The contracts were signed at the Shot Show exhibition in Las Vegas on January 17-20.  “The results of the exhibition are inspiring. The American market in non-military weapons is booming. We project a 20 percent increase in deliveries this year,”  Izhmash General Director Maxim Kuzyukov said.

credit: Sergei Dukachev

 

Izhmash signed an agreement on exclusive imports to the U.S. market with Russian Weapon Company and an agreement with Fime Group as Izhmash’s partner for manufacturing classic firearm models.  A spokesman for Izhmash declined to provide details about the partner or name the U.S. law enforcement agencies that are buying its products.

Just one question, Max:  is Lunghu way out of line in surmising that perhaps Viktor Bout had a hand in brokering this deal from the bowels of the MCC?  And that Alana Bout will be remaining in the USA to attend to the business affairs of  ‘Russian Weapon Company’?  Just sayin’ …

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.  Or not.

 

Refuge at Last

December 22, 2011

Pity the poor Finns!  They haven’t even (officially) managed to get to the bottom of the 2009 M/V Arctic Sea saga, and now someone has dropped another boatload of missiles into their laps  –this time, American ones.

The Finnish authorities have impounded an Isle of Man-flagged ship bound for China with undeclared missiles and explosives, officials say.  Routine checks by Finland’s traffic safety authority revealed a load of up to 160 tons of improperly packed nitroguanidine, a low-sensitivity explosive with a high detonation speed.   Police are questioning the crew of the MS Thor Liberty after what were described as 69 Patriot anti-missile missiles were found in containers marked “fireworks”.

Fireworks enroute to China:   it’s like carrying coals to Newcastle all over again.

credit: L K Gilbert

 

BBC News accompanied their online story with an archive photo showing a Patriot missile launcher deployed at a Greek air force base. Are they hinting at something that no one’s willing to actually say quite yet?  Like maybe the bankrupt Greeks are paying off debts by selling high-tech NATO weaponry to Russia and China?

AP via BBC

 

Lunghu thinks that the ostensible destination of this shipment –Shanghai– is quite a clever touch:  it’s almost enough to make him believe that Comrade Bear is behind the whole thing, seeking to torque up tension between China and the United States, embarrass the Obama administration in an election year, and sow seeds of mistrust within NATO.  Too complicated?  Maybe.

Mind you, there’s no reason that an enterprising Chinese missile entrepreneur wouldn’t like to have a few dozen Patriot missiles in stock … just to round out his inventory.

Return Bout

Meanwhile, Lunghu is sure this is just a coincidence:

Judge Shira Scheindlin interviewed a juror from [last month’s] trial of Viktor Bout at a brief hearing Wednesday. The juror said she had seen the film “Lord of War” before the trial began … [but] didn’t realize until after the trial was over that the movie pertained to Bout.  Judge Scheindlin [then] rejected requests by Bout’s lawyers that she rule the juror acted inappropriately in convicting him.

 

It’s Baaack!

October 19, 2011

Just when you least expect it, and just when you’d much rather have an update on the Viktor Bout trial [not much happening there], those pesky Finns resurrect ancient history by making wild, implausible claims about the storied 2009 voyage of the MV Arctic Sea.  This from Sunday’s edition of a leading Helsinki newspaper:

According to two Finnish crisis security experts, Timo Hellenberg and Pekka Visuri, the Arctic Sea … is likely to have been carrying raw materials for use in chemical warfare … [when it] was hijacked in 2009 while en route from Finland to Algeria.

Visuri and Hellenberg believe that the ship was empty when it arrived in the Finnish port city of Pietarsaari to take on its cargo of lumber.  It is their theory that material that could be used in nuclear technology or in chemical and biological weaponry may have been loaded onto the ship at sea in Swedish waters. …

Hellenberg and Visuri do not believe that the ship carried heavy anti-aircraft missiles, as was suggested [at the time]; such weapons would not have fit in the ship because it was full of lumber loaded in Finland.

These Finnish “experts” conclude that “the action was the work of professional criminals, and the probable destination was the Middle East. … They do not believe that the Russian government would have been involved, simply because it would have had easier ways of delivering such goods.

Here’s Lunghu’s assessment of this Finnish pastry puff-piece:

  • These “crisis security experts” are seeking deflect potential criticism of Finland’s border/port security protocols by asserting that the contraband never transited Finnish territory  –it “may have been loaded onto the ship at sea in Swedish waters.
  • The Finns are bending over backwards to avoid offending their next-door neighbor Comrade Bear, who will soon (once again) be Comrade President Bear.  Hence the rather implausible claim that “they do not believe that the Russian government [was] involved.”   This despite the fact they concede that “the MV Arctic Sea had been in Kaliningrad, where such materials are stored … [and] such (chemwar) goods were under the control of the [Russian] state.
  • Visuri and Hellenberg base their exoneration of the RF government on the facile assertion that the Russians “would have had easier ways of delivering such goods.”   Really?  Even if plausible deniability happened to be the single most important feature of this particular transaction?  And what if those “easier ways” of delivering contraband customarily involved the logistics networks operated by a certain guest of the Kingdom of Thailand —Viktor Bout?   Not quite so easy anymore.
  • There’s not much (if any) evidence presented by these experts, and more “believing” than a Bible Belt tent revival meeting.  But that’s because they’re not really seeking to prove anything –they’re running a minor information operation on behalf of Finland.

The researchers find it mysterious that the hijacking of a ship did not cause a major stir in any country.  Why didn’t the EU and NATO do anything? [Oh, they definitely did something, all right! In Spain. For a couple of weeks!]
“There is a tangible possibility of a conspiracy there,” says Pekka Visuri.

At least we can agree on something.