Viktor Bout Net Worth

Written by Ivana - Reviewed by Natalija Business Leaders

8 min read
Net Worth $ 60,000,000
Real name Viktor Anatolyevich Bout
Source of Wealth Smuggling weapons
Profession Arms dealer, entrepreneur, former Soviet military translator
Spouse/Partner Married to Alla Bout
Date of Birth Jan 13, 1967
Zodiac Capricorn
Age 56
Gender Male
Pronoun He/Him
Height 177 cm / 5 ft 9 inch
Nationality Russian

Biography

Viktor Bout, whose real name is Viktor Anatolyevich Bout, is a notorious arms dealer and war profiteer from Russia. He came to the spotlight after the fall of the Soviet Union when he opened air transport companies to smuggle weapons from Eastern Europe to Africa and the Middle East in the 1990s and 2000s.

Viktor was nicknamed “The Merchant of Death” because of his far-reaching operations in providing weapons to some of the bloodiest wars in the 90s. He was arrested in 2008 in Bangkok, Thailand, on terrorism charges in operation organized by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that war ran across three continents, and convicted in the United States in 2011.

Viktor Bout's net worth is estimated at $60 million.

Viktor Bout’s early life

Viktor Bout was born in Dushanbe, the then Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic of the USSR [1] . There are not many known details about his childhood; even his birth date is not certain.

He graduated from the Military Institute of Foreign Languages. When he finished his education, he was fluent in six languages: English, Portuguese, French, Russian, Arabic, and Farsi (Persian); additionally, he was said to speak Esperanto as well.

Viktor served as a translator in the Soviet Army and held the rank of lieutenant. However, he was discharged after the collapse of the USSR in 1991.

Other sources claim that Viktor was either a major in the GRU (Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation), a Soviet Air Forces officer, or even a KGB operative.

Viktor Bout’s arms smuggling career beginnings in the post-Soviet era

After being discharged from the Soviet Army, Viktor opened an air freight company, “Air Cess,” located in Angola. The business was reported to provide air transport services to the United States, United Nations, and the French government.

During this time, he got the nickname “Sanctions Buster” due to his practice of violating the UN’s arms embargoes on the western African countries Liberia, Angola, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Bout sent shipments of weapons and ammunition to the pre-Taliban government of Afghanistan in 1994. He was involved in smuggling weapons from Bulgaria to Togo, a country in West Africa, between 1996 and 1998. The weapons were thought to have been intended to be used in the Angolan Civil War by UNITA.

Viktor was also suspected of having supplied Charles Taylor with weapons intended for the First Liberian Civil War.

He was supposedly also involved in weapons smuggling for the Yugoslav Wars, particularly for the Bosnian forces during its uprising against the Milošević government.

Viktor denied having had any connection with and providing weapons for al-Qaeda or the Taliban, although his airplanes continued flying to Afghanistan even after the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

In an interview for UK's Channel 4 News in 2009, he admitted to providing weapons in Afghanistan, but they were used by the forces fighting against the Taliban [2] .

The arms dealer partnered with Richard Chichakli to open Samar Airlines in Tajikistan in 2004, mainly for the purpose of money laundering. At the beginning of the 2000s, Bout was alleged to have supplied weapons to multiple militant groups involved in wars in Africa, like the Second Congo War. He also provided surface-to-air missiles used to attack an Israeli airliner in 2002.

After the Gaddafi government was overthrown, disclosed records reveal that British intelligence officials informed Musa Kusa, the then-Libyan intelligence chief Musa Kusa, that Viktor Bout had a significant commercial presence in Libya.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvPGIcVRKco

Viktor Bout’s Investigation, arrest and extradition

Viktor was able to successfully avoid the authorities building a case on him because he constantly changed locations, owned multiple air transport companies, and re-registered his aircraft.

He lived in many countries, including Russia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Belgium, Lebanon, and Rwanda. Bout was charged in the Central African Republic in 2000 and convicted in absentia, but the charges were dropped.

Two years later, in 2002, Interpol issued a red notice for Bout at the request of Belgian authorities, followed by a Belgian warrant for his arrest, which was canceled later. The reasons for dismissing the Belgian case were due to “lack of fixed residence” and the inability to execute it promptly.

The U.S. was also after him; in 2004, Bout’s assets in the United States were frozen. However, there was no law in the U.S. under which he could be prosecuted.

Viktor Bout was finally arrested on March 8, 2008, in Bangkok, Thailand, on an Interpol red notice issued by the U.S. The arrest was made after an elaborate sting operation by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents.

The U.S. agents pretended to be representatives of the Colombian FARC rebels, for which Bout offered to provide weapons.

Nevertheless, in August 2009, the Bangkok Criminal Court ruled in favor of Bout. But the following year, the U.S. appealed the ruling, and a new ruling was passed with which Viktor was extradited to the United States on November 16, 2010.

The Russian government protested the decision, claiming that it was politically motivated. They tried to prevent Bout’s extradition. The Russian then-foreign minister Sergei Lavrov even claimed that Viktor was innocent.

Russia imposed sanctions and declared it would deny entry visas to all people involved in the sentencing and prosecution of Bout.

Nevertheless, the U.S. carried on with the persecution, and the U.S. Department of Justice charged Viktor with conspiracy to provide anti-aircraft missiles, conspiracy to provide sources and material to a foreign terrorist organization, and conspiracy to kill U.S. people and officials.

More charges were added to his case, including illegally acquiring aircraft, money laundering, and wire fraud.

Viktor was convicted in November 2011 by a federal court in Manhattan and sentenced to 25 years of prison the next year.

Offer for a prisoner exchange for Viktor Bout and Brittney Griner

The newest update regarding the Bout case involves a Forbes article that claims the Bided administration offered Russia Bout in exchange for Women's National Basketball Association star Brittney Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan.[3]

Griner was accused of possessing and smuggling drugs and sentenced to nine years of prison after cannabis oil vape cartridges were found in her bag at the Sheremetyevo International Airport. Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in prison for spying.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QuZtCLXTPg

According to the latest updates of December 9, 2022, Griner has finally been freed from the Russian prison in exchange for Bout. President Biden has signed the order for the release of the arms dealer in exchange for Griner and commuted his 25-year sentence.

The high-level prisoner exchange took place in Abu Dhabi, with the two prisoners being with private planes from Washington and Moscow to the designated exchange spot and then being flown to their home countries, BBC reports.[5]

Griner spent 10 months in a Russian prison. President Biden stated that he made her release a priority. He added that he’s glad he finds Brittney in good spirits.

Unfortunately, the exchange deal didn’t include Paul Whelan, because, as President Biden stated, Russia treats Whelan’s case differently than Griner’s. He also added that he’s not giving up on freeing him too.

Bout served 12 years in the US prison out of the 25 he was sentenced to in 2011.

Viktor Bout’s included in media

Bout’s case served as an inspiration for the 2005 movie “Lord Of War” featuring Nicholas Cage portraying Yuri Orlov, an international arms smuggler.

He was also the subject of the third chapter in a book by Nick Kochan titled “The Washing Machine.”

Viktor’s story was also featured in the documentary “The Notorious Mr. Bout” [4] , which premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

Also, Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun released the book “Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible,” unraveling the arms dealer's story.

Viktor Bout’s family

Bout married Alla Bout in 1992. The couple had one daughter, Elizaveta Viktorovna Bout.

Conclusion

Viktor Bout is a Russian arms dealer and war profiteer. He is a former Soviet Army translator who opened air transport companies after the fall of the Soviet Union. Viktor used the air freight companies to smuggle arms from Eastern Europe to Africa and the Middle East to be used in the most devastating conflicts and wars in the 1990s and 2000s.

Bout was convicted in 2011 and is currently serving 25 years in prison in the United States. Viktor’s net worth is estimated at $60 million.

References

  1. Viktor Bout. (2022, November 05). Retrieved November 7, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktor_Bout

  2. Viktor Bout: Who is 'the merchant of death'? (2022, July 28). Retrieved November 7, 2022, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-11036569

  3. Person, & Light, F. (2022, August 05). Explainer: Who is Viktor Bout, arms dealer linked to swap for Americans held by Russia? Retrieved November 7, 2022, from https://www.reuters.com/world/who-is-viktor-bout-arms-dealer-linked-swap-americans-held-by-moscow-2022-08-01/ 

  4. About. (n.d.). Retrieved November 7, 2022, from http://www.thenotoriousmrbout.com/about

  5. Kirby, P. (2022) Brittney Griner: Russia frees US basketball star in swap with arms dealer Viktor Bout, BBC News. BBC. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-63905112 (Accessed: December 12, 2022).