I was the first to publicly break the story of Viktor Bout’s imminent transfer to Florence Colorado’s Super Maximum security prison (dubbed Supermax) to be canceled. A reliable source whom wished to remain anonymous informed me of the news last week. Approximately an hour after I tweeted the breaking news [Timeline], The Voice of Russia was the first to publish an article after my announcement.
Smulian Gets a Slap on the Wrist
Judge Shira A. Scheindlin — whom also presided over the Viktor Bout trial and sentenced him to 25 years — sentenced Andrew Smulian to 5 years. Since he served approximately 50 months already, Smulian will be able to deduct that time from his 60 month sentence and will be a free man in about 10 months. This decision was by no means surprising to me, in fact I expected Smulian to get time served thus allowing him to walk out of prison a free man yesterday. Smulian’s lawyers and the prosecution were also hoping for this outcome. As stated by a New York Times article, titled, Conduit to Arms Sting, a Star Witness Apologizes for His Crimes:
On Wednesday, Mr. Smulian’s lawyer, Mary E. Mulligan, who had asked for time served for her client, called Mr. Smulian “deeply remorseful and humble,” and cited what she called his “viable personal transformation” while assisting the government during his four years in custody.
Smulian’s lawyer also cited his ill health and the fact that he admitted his alleged crimes to the judge.
Smulian’s lawyer, Mary E. Mulligan, has asked that her client be sentenced to “time served,” citing his cooperation, his health and his acceptance of responsibility.
By law the Judge was to impose on Andrew Smulian the minimum sentence of 25 years. At age 71 and currently suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure, this would have most certainly meant a life sentence for him. However, his cooperation with the DEA and prosecutors and most notably his role in helping nab Viktor Bout was his saving grace to a drastically reduced sentence.
Viktor Bout Escapes A Life Sentence
This excerpt from the NY Times piece states why the Judge sentenced Smulian to only five years as opposed to the legal minimum sentence of 25 years.
There was no evidence, she [Judge Scheindlin] added, that had Mr. Smulian not been approached in the sting, he would ever “have been involved with terrorism.”
Here is a excerpt from my article titled, Viktor Bout Stung By DEA Operation ‘Relentless’: Sentenced to 25 Years:
The DEA sting operation dubbed ‘Relentless’ ironically may have been both Viktor Bout’s demise as well as sparing him a life behind bars in a U.S. Federal penitentiary. U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin said 25 years was sufficient and appropriate because there was no evidence the 45-year-old Bout would have been charged with seeking to harm Americans if not approached by informants posing as Colombian rebels.
“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.
It was blatantly obvious to most if not all whom actually sat through the entire trial, that if not for DEA operation ‘Relentless’, there would be no conspiracy charges against Viktor Bout. One can even insinuate from the judges behavior, demeanor, attitude and most notably by her rulings and decisions, that she felt the same.
The DEA first had to create the jurisdiction to try and convict Bout of conspiracy. To do this, they had to get Bout into The United States and into New York’s Southern District dubbed the DEA’s playground before the deadline of 20 November 2010. There has never been a terrorism case that has been lost by the prosecutor’s in New York’s Southern District. 20 November 2010 was the date that Bout’s extradition in the Royal Thai court would have legally expired. Since Viktor Bout had and still has an appeal pending in the Royal Thai court, he was removed from prison without any paperwork or legal transfers being filed. Neither his lawyer at the time nor his wife Alla had been notified when the DEA extracted him from the Thai prison to a chartered jet on 16 November 2010. Alla Bout only found out when she arrived at the Thai prison (her daily routine) to bring Viktor his vegetarian home-cooked lunch.
I wrote about it in January 2011 in Imaginary Crimes but here is an article from 26 March 2012, titled, There is nobody to represent Viktor Bout in Thailand. Here are a few excerpts:
[Lak Nitivat] Vichan (Bout’s Thai lawyer whom has died this past January) contributed to the Thai Appeals Court’s decision in 2011 to reconsider Bout’s extradition case. The same court held for Bout’s extradition after lower courts twice declined U.S. requests.
The court decided to review the case on the grounds that, first, new facts have been uncovered, according to the defense, and, second, Bout’s extradition was illegal as he was still under the Thai court’s jurisdiction. Under Thai law, the extradition order was not sufficient to extradite Bout as the court also needed to issue a permit for Bout’s transfer from prison.
In my article titled, Imaginary Crimes: The Never Ending Viktor Bout Story, I talk explicitly and extensively about the manufactured evidence and jurisdiction in this case.
Conduit to Viktor Bout
Andrew Smulian was born in Britain in 1941, he was raised in South Africa and served in its air force. Smulian a former South African pilot who also holds British citizenship eventually entered the world of intrigue and espionage. According to the New York Times in 1966, Smulian became a paid South African intelligence asset, using his air cargo company to spy on the military operations of nearby countries that opposed the apartheid regime.
Like in his testimony, Smulian often contradicted himself. Although by his own admission he was working for and supported South Africa’s apartheid regime, he latter denounced the ideology.
In a letter to the judge, Ms. Mulligan also said that although Mr. Smulian had worked for the South African government during apartheid, he “disavows the ideology of apartheid.”
It also came out in court during the testimony that Smulian was contacted by DEA informant Mike Snow whom was also a South African. Prior to contacting Smulian, Mike Snow was approached by the DEA and was asked to help them nab Viktor Bout. Snow agreed to cooperate and contacted Smulian.
Smulian first met Bout in the 1990’s and had assisted him in setting up air transportation hubs in various parts of Africa. The two had not met face-face for approximately ten years prior to their reunion in Moscow in early 2008. For the voluminous amount of evidence presented by the prosecutor’s during the trial especially all the taped phones conversations, during Smulian’s Moscow meetings, there were none. Just the word of Andrew Smulian of what was said in private between Viktor Bout and himself. There is a lot of controversy surrounding Smulian’s testimony, his motives and especially exactly when he was turned by the DEA and flipped on Viktor Bout.
Another excerpt from the previously mentioned NY Times article, the judge said:
“He was simply a financially vulnerable, out-of-work” air transporter who had known Mr. Bout, the judge said in court, and he had been used as a conduit for the government to catch the man it really wanted.
The Alleged Co-conspirator
Andrew Smulian was by far the key witness in the Viktor Bout trial and it is justifiable to say that he was the only witness that really mattered. According to a Wall Street Journal article titled, Prosecutors: Smulian Testimony ‘Crucial’ In Viktor Bout Conviction:
The testimony and assistance of a dual British-South African citizen was “crucial” in securing the conviction of notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout, prosecutors said in a court filing late Monday. Smulian’s lawyer, Mary E. Mulligan stated in the same article, “It was Mr. Smulian’s cooperation in the Bout prosecution that brought this to bear.”
The NY Times piece said this:
A prosecutor, Anjan Sahni, said Mr. Smulian’s cooperation “was indeed critical” in helping to refute Mr. Bout’s defense.
The question of motive was apparent. Smulian was broke and needed money. Dayan had shaken up Smulian quite a few times during his cross-examination. According to Dayan he was a liar. The following excerpts are from the NY Times article:
Mr. Bout’s defense lawyer, Albert Y. Dayan, in his summation at his client’s trial, called Mr. Smulian a liar who had become “intoxicated” with an arms deal that he saw as “his retirement plan.”
But in more recent years, Mr. Smulian’s business failed, and he became essentially a nomad, moving from one African country to another, living on the edge of society.
The judge also stated about Smulian:
“He was simply a financially vulnerable, out-of-work” air transporter who had known Mr. Bout, the judge said in court …”
The most shocking and telling testimony in my opinion is that Andrew Smulian admitted during testimony, on-record, to purchasing a one-way ticket to New York before he arrived or before Viktor Bout arrived in Bangkok, Thailand. The judge explained during the verdict that a conspiracy with a DEA agent and / or a DEA informant is by law not a conspiracy. Therefore, without the testimony of Andrew Smulian — there basically ain’t no case! Also, if the jury could have been convinced or if it was proven beyond a reasonable that Smulian turned on Viktor Bout before the Thailand meeting then case closed. That would deem Smulian a DEA informant and thus no conspiracy charge against Viktor Bout.
However, the real conspiracy was inside the court room and it was against Viktor Bout. You had highly paid DEA agents, DEA informants paid millions plus awaiting potential bonus’, all testifying against Bout. Mike Snow was paid, DEA informants Carlos and Ricardo were paid handsomely and Smulian was given his early freedom.
If you ignore that fact that Smulian had a one-way ticket purchased to New York prior to the arrest of Bout in Thailand, what about his intelligence background? Could he live in the same hotel room as a DEA informant, be constantly wire-tapped, given a tapped phone to use when he phone Bout and have no idea? To me it is unfathomable to imagine.
It is important to note as well, that Smulian met with the prosecutors approximately fifty times in preparation for his testimony. As well as the fact that no part of his crucial testimony during his Moscow meetings with Viktor Bout can be verified. It is solely his word which if you read the entire transcripts of his testimony — simply does not hold water.
Lastly, it was proven in court testimony that the DEA informants were paid well, the DEA operation dubbed ‘Relentless’ spanned 3 continents and cost tax payers an estimated $500 million to pursue and catch Viktor Bout. It is also on court record that Smulian was old, broke and in ill-health when approached by DEA informant Mike Snow. For me, it is much more realistic and believable after sitting through the entire three week trial that Smulian flipped on Bout for money than to believe the nonsensical statements that don’t add up.
During the trial not once during Smulian’s appearances in the court room did he look at Viktor Bout directly over even in his vicinity. Smulian was also offered protection by the U.S. prosecutors. Smulian was apparently afraid of repercussions of his testimony, he will more than likely be offered entry into the witness protection program.
Mr. Smulian’s plea agreement states that if deemed necessary, prosecutors would takes steps to protect him and his family after his release from prison, including possibly applying for his entry into the witness protection program.
What is more intriguing than the anti-climatic sentencing of Andrew Smulian is that of the continuing curious case of Viktor Bout. There are apparently high level discussions between Washington D.C. and the Kremlin that resembles a champion chess tournament. Viktor Bout said in an exclusive interview by The Voice of Russia’s, , via phone from prison in Brooklyn, that he will be back in Russia soon. That was approximately one month before President Putin was sworn in as President.
This article came out a few hours ago Bout Defense Prepares Extradition Request and Appeals. Apparently the only obstacle that may prevent Viktor Bout from possibly returning to his home in Russia to complete his prison sentence is a formal request to the Russian Ministry of Justice. According to Bout’s defense attorney Albert Y. Dayan, those legal procedures are currently taken place. This case has been anything but straight-forward or dull — stayed tuned for the unpredictable and intriguing case of Viktor Bout.
Here is an excerpt from the above mentioned article:
Viktor Bout, has started work on an appeal to Russian Ministry of Justice requesting his extradition from the U.S. as well as appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court and the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Bout’s lawyer Albert Dayan said.
Additional articles, radio and television interviews about Viktor Bout: