Bout’s former associate sentenced to five years in US prison
NEW YORK, December 5 (RAPSI) – A New York court has sentenced the associate of convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, Richard Chichakli, to five years in prison on conspiracy and wire fraud charges, RIA Novosti reports on Friday.
Chichakli, 56, a citizen of both the US and Syria, was caught living as a cleaner in Australia in January 2013 when he applied for a job as a protective services officer and underwent a fingerprint check. He was extradited to the United States to face charges of conspiring with Bout and others in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).
Prosecutors demanded that Chichakli be sentenced to 87-108 months (7-9 years).
According to investigators, Chichakli allegedly violated UN sanctions in an attempt to buy two US planes via Samar Airlines, which was registered to a front party. UN sanctions against Bout and Chichakli were approved in 2000 on the suspicion that they were aiding former Liberian President Charles Taylor and supplied weapons to Angolan rebels.
In December 2013, a jury found Chichakli guilty of nine counts.
Chichakli, who acted as his own lawyer during his trial, claims that he had been framed because of Bout. “I’ve always said this is a political case,” he said.
Chichakli provided numerous documents to the court that allegedly expose US law enforcement agencies’ falsification of evidence.
Bout is serving a 25 year sentence in Illinois. He was convicted in November 2011 of conspiracy to murder US nationals, including military officers and employees, and of selling millions of dollars’ worth of weapons, including hundreds of portable surface-to-air missiles and over 20,000 AK-47s, to the Colombian rebel group FARC.
Bout has consistently denied the charges against him. Russia attempted to have him extradited from the United States under the 1983 Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, but without success.