BANGKOK — The Thai government agreed Tuesday to extradite accused Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout to the United States to face terrorism charges, rejecting heavy pressure from Moscow for him to be freed.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters after a Cabinet meeting that Bout would be sent as soon as the US is ready to receive him, and even suggested that the suspect might already be on his way.
Abhisit said his Cabinet sided with an earlier appeals court decision that Bout could be extradited.
Bout, a 43-year-old former Soviet air force officer who is reputed to have been one of the world's most prolific arms dealers, was arrested at a Bangkok luxury hotel in March 2008 as part of a sting operation led by US agents.
The head of a lucrative air transport empire, Bout had long evaded UN and US sanctions aimed at blocking his financial activities and restricting his travel. He claims he ran a legitimate business and never sold weapons.
Bout has allegedly supplied weapons that fueled civil wars in South America, the Middle East and Africa, with clients including Liberia's Charles Taylor and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and both sides in Angola's civil war.