by Douglas Farah & Stephen Braun

Former West African Bureau Chief of the Washington Post Douglas Farah and Los Angeles Times National Correspondent Stephen Braun detail how a small circle of U.S. officials and international investigators worked doggedly to shut down Viktor Bout's arms pipelines, only to be trumped by Bout's ingenuity and by their own inability-and, in some cases, unwillingness-to confront the dark side of the new world order.

Bout Arrested

Photo Credit: AP Photo

Photo Credit: AP Photo

After years of eluding authorities, Viktor Bout was arrested in Bangkok on March 6, 2008, targeted by an undercover sting operation by federal narcotics agents. Bout is currently detained in a maximum security jail by Thai authorities and the U.S. is seeking to extradite him for trial in New York.

Federal prosecutors have issued a criminal complaint indicating Bout will be charged with attempting to procure weapons for a terrorist entity. American officials said Bout was lured into a sting operation that led him to believe he was negotiating an arms deal with agents for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Merchant of Death was cited in the U.S. criminal complaint against Bout and in the Congressional Record, and the book and its authors were widely quoted in the international media about the case.

Merchant of Death Citations

Since Bout's arrest media citations of the book have multiplied around the world. In addition to those listed below Merchant of Death was also cited in articles about Bout’s capture in the Montreal Gazette, France’s Le Monde, Le Temps and Liberation, Belgium’s De Standaard, Germany’s Die Tageszeitung.

  • Viktor Bout, the subject of my book with Steve Braun has been arrested in Thailand on charges of supplying weapons to the FARC in Colombia. It is a stunning blow to the world’s “Merchant of Death,” who has been responsible for fanning wars across Africa, as well as aiding and abetting the Taliban, and thus, indirectly, al Qaeda.
    Douglas Farah at
  • The long hunt for a man regarded as one of the world's most notorious arms dealers climaxed Thursday in Bangkok, Thailand, where an eight-month sting operation by a team of U.S. agents led to the capture and arrest of Russian businessman Viktor Bout during an alleged attempt to supply Colombian rebels with weapons and explosives.
    Stephen Braun in the Los Angeles Times
  • I believe that SMULIAN's description of BOUT as the "merchant of death" refers to a 2005 book about BOUT entitled The Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible.
    Criminal complaint Against Viktor Bout
    Read the Full Citation
  • According to Douglas Farah, one of the authors of the recently published "Merchant of Death," "[it] is highly unlikely [Bout] could have flown aircraft out of Russia and acquired huge amounts of weapons from Soviet arsenals without the direct protection of Russian intelligence, and, given his background, the [Russian military intelligence] seems the most likely candidate." Indeed, it is likely that such assistance was needed to create such a vast empire.
  • With Thursday’s arrest Mr. Bout, already the principal character of one book, “Merchant of Death,” by Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun, may well find himself the subject of another, said Michael A. Braun, the chief of operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration, at a news conference in New York. “And I can tell you that it will read like the very best work of Tom Clancy,” he said. “Only in this case, it won’t be fiction.”
    David Johnston and Seth Mydans, The New York Times
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  • "One of the most fascinating things is his ability not only to supply different sides of a conflict, but to live and tell about it with no one killing him," said Douglas Farah, a former Washington Post reporter and co-author of a 2007 book about Bout, "Merchant of Death."
    Dan Eggen, The Washington Post
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  • According to Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes and the Man Who Makes War Possible, a book on Bout written by Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun last year, Bout began to fill his Africa-bound aircraft with stockpiles of Soviet weapons to sell to some of Africa's most notorious regimes and rebel groups. As his business expanded, Bout found himself selling weapons on both sides of the conflicts. In the 1990s, according to Farah and Braun, Bout was flying in guns to the Northern Alliance and the Taliban government they were trying to depose.
    Brian Bennett, TIME Magazine
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  • One of his companies also served as a subcontractor involved in transporting U.S. military personnel and private U.S. contractors in Iraq, according to a book about Bout by journalists Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun published last year.
    Michael Casey, The Associated Press
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  • Douglas Farah, author of the Merchant of Death book on Bout, said there was no doubt Bout benefited from the US government’s “schizophrenic policies”. He said that after it emerged Bout was still on the US payroll despite a presidential order, the Pentagon “decided they were going to ignore it and pretend it didn’t happen.
    Michael Sheridan, Bangkok, Tony Allen-Mills, New York and Jon Swain, The Times
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  • According to a 2007 book about him - entitled Merchant of Death - Money, Guns, Planes and the Man Who Makes War Possible - he set up a network of companies using redundant Soviet military planes.
  • In their book 'Merchant of Death', American journalists Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun laid bare much of Bout's operation. It was not just guns Bout delivered. He flew frozen chickens from South Africa to Nigeria and Belgian peace keepers to Somalia.
    Thomas Bell, The Independant
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  • "In an age when the US president has divided the world into those who are with the United States and those who are against it, Bout is both," wrote Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun, authors of Merchant of Death, the investigation into Bout which they published last year.
    Duncan Campbell and Ian MacKinnon, The Guardian
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  • A 2007 book by journalists Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun, called "Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible," claims that planes in Bout's fleet made several airdrops of weapons to FARC guerrillas between December 1998 and April 1999. The book says the flights dropped about 10,000 weapons to the rebels, "enabling them to greatly enhance their military capabilities."
  • From 2003 through at least 2005, Pentagon contractors used air cargo companies known to be connected to Bout to fly an estimated 1,000 supply trips into and out of Iraq, according to "Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Plans, and the Man Who Makes War Possible" by Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun.
    Justin Rood and Maddy Sauer, ABC News
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  • What actually tripped him up, however, appears to have been a massive shipment of arms to left-wing Colombian guerrillas. As investigative journalists Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun document in their book on Bout called Merchant of Death, Bout's planes airdropped as many as 10,000 weapons to guerrillas with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in the late 1990s.
    Kevin Whitelaw, US News and World Report
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  • According to a book about Mr. Bout by Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun, "Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible," one of his companies subcontracted to transport private U.S. contractors in Iraq. He is thought to have been a model for the arms dealer Nicolas Cage played in the 2005 film "Lord of War."
    Jerry Seper, The Washington Times
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  • As befits his notoriety, Bout has been the subject of a book, "The Merchant of Death" by Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun, and a movie, "Lord of War," with Nicolas Cage. He has also been on a UN sanctions list, the target of an Interpol arrest warrant, and has been pursued by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on suspicion of supplying arms to the cocaine-trafficking guerrilla group known as FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
    International Herald Tribune
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