( dpa )- Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout has been charged in the US with conspiracy to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to Colombian rebels, the US Justice Department said Thursday.
Bout was arrested Wednesday in Thailand in what the Justice Department said was the result of close cooperation between US and Thai authorities. The United States said they would seek his extradition.
The charges stem from a sting operation in which Bout and an accomplice agreed to sell weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which is designated a terrorist organization in the United States.
Bout and Andrew Smulian offered to sell and deliver surface to air missiles, helicopters and armor piercing rocket launchers in a series of phone calls and emails to two Drug Enforcement Agency sources posing as FARC members.
A former officer in the Soviet army, Bout has since become one of the most notorious arms dealers in the world, accused of selling weapons to the Taliban in Afghanistan and to the al-Qaeda terrorist network.
Bout and Smulian face up to 15 years in prison on charges of conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization. The charges were unsealed Thursday in a New York federal court.
"Viktor Bout and Andrew Smulian agreed to arm terrorists with high-powered weapons that have fueled some of the most violent conflicts in recent memory," US Attorney Michael J Garcia said in a statement.