Have you ever wondered how much money a notorious arms dealer can make? How does someone who sells weapons to warlords, dictators, and terrorists manage their finances? What are the sources and destinations of their illicit income? If you are curious about these questions, then you are in the right place.
In this article, we will take a comprehensive look at the finances of Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer who has been dubbed the “Merchant of Death” by the media and the authorities. We will explore Viktor Bout net worth, background, business empire, clients, assets, his arrest and release, and his current situation. You’ll know more about Viktor Bout net worth which is $50 million and his financial activities by the end of this article.
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Viktor Bout: Background
Viktor Bout was born on January 13, 1967 in Dushanbe, the capital city of Tajikistan during the time it was part of the Soviet Union. He has one older brother, Sergei, who also became involved in his arms trading enterprise.
In 1987, Bout completed his studies at the Military Institute of Foreign Languages in Moscow where he learned various languages such as English, French, Portuguese and Arabic. He worked as a translator in the Soviet Air Force until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Bout took advantage of the chaos and opportunity that followed the end of the Cold War, and started his career in air transport. He acquired several military planes and crews from the former Soviet bloc, and began flying cargo and passengers to various destinations around the world. He soon realized that there was a huge demand for weapons and ammunition in conflict zones, especially in Africa and the Middle East, where he had established contacts and networks.
Bout set up a complex web of front companies, shell corporations, and offshore accounts to conceal his activities and evade sanctions and regulations. He used his planes to smuggle arms from Eastern Europe to war-torn countries, such as Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo, Sudan, Rwanda, and Afghanistan. He also supplied weapons to rebel groups, militias, and terrorist organizations, such as the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and FARC. He did not discriminate between his clients, and was willing to sell to anyone who could pay. He gained the monikers “Merchant of Death” and “Sanctions Buster” due to his involvement in promoting conflicts and instability globally.
According to various estimates, Bout made between $50 million and $6 billion from his arms trade, depending on the sources and methods of calculation. He used his wealth to buy luxury properties, cars, and yachts in various countries, such as Russia, Belgium, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates. He also hired lawyers, lobbyists, and public relations firms to protect his reputation and interests.
Viktor claimed that he was a legitimate businessman and philanthropist, who provided humanitarian aid and development assistance to the regions he operated in. He denied any involvement in illegal or immoral activities, and accused his critics and enemies of fabricating evidence and conspiring against him.
Viktor Bout’s Business Empire
Viktor Bout net worth was largely derived from his vast and complex business empire, which involved dozens of front companies, shell corporations, and offshore accounts. He owned and operated several air cargo companies, such as Air Cess, Air Pass, and Transavia Travel Agency, which he used to transport weapons and other goods across the world. He also had interests in mining, logging, diamond trading, and real estate.
Bout’s business empire was not only profitable, but also secretive and elusive. He used various aliases, fake documents, and intermediaries to conceal his identity and activities. He also exploited the loopholes and weaknesses of the international legal and financial systems, such as the lack of transparency, regulation, and enforcement. He was able to evade sanctions, embargoes, and investigations by changing his company names, aircraft registrations, and flight routes. He also bribed and corrupted officials, politicians, and military officers in various countries to gain access and protection.
Bout’s business empire was also adaptable and resilient. He was able to adjust to the changing market conditions and customer demands, and to exploit the emerging opportunities and conflicts. He expanded his operations from Africa and the Middle East to Asia, Europe, and Latin America. He diversified his products and services, from small arms and ammunition to tanks, helicopters, and missiles. He also catered to a wide range of clients, from governments and rebel groups to private security firms and humanitarian organizations. He claimed that he was not loyal to any ideology or cause, but only to his business interests.
According to recent estimates, Viktor Bout net worth is around $50 million as of 2023. However, his actual wealth and assets are difficult to trace and verify, as they are scattered and hidden in various countries and jurisdictions. Some of his assets have been seized or frozen by the authorities, while others have been transferred or sold to his associates or relatives.
Bout’s business empire is still active and operational, despite his arrest and imprisonment. His brother Sergei Bout, who was his right-hand man and partner, has taken over the management and control of his companies and networks. Sergei has continued to supply weapons and other goods to various regions and customers, using the same methods and tactics as his brother. He has also maintained contact and communication with his brother, and has been lobbying and campaigning for his release and repatriation.
Viktor Bout Arrest and Release
On March 6, 2008, Viktor Bout was arrested in Bangkok, Thailand by the Royal Thai Police after an Interpol red notice was issued at the request of the United States. Bout was targeted by a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sting operation, during which U.S. agents posed as members of the Colombian rebel group FARC and negotiated with him for the sale of 100 surface-to-air missiles and armor-piercing rocket launchers intended for use against American forces in Colombia.
In 2010, Viktor Bout was extradited to the United States where he was charged and convicted of multiple crimes, including conspiracy to murder American citizens and officials, delivering anti-aircraft missiles, and providing support to a terrorist organization.
He was sentenced to 25 years in prison and ultimately released in a prisoner exchange for American basketball player Brittney Griner in 2022.
Viktor Bout Current Whereabouts
Viktor Bout is currently residing in Russia. In 2022, he joined the Liberal Democratic Party and ran for a position in the Legislative Assembly of Ulyanovsk Oblast as an LDPR candidate. Despite this, he remains a wanted criminal by the United States and other nations due to his involvement in illegal arms trafficking.
Viktor Bout, the infamous arms trafficker known as the “Merchant of Death,” accumulated a fortune of $50 million through his intricate and covert business operations. He used his wealth to live a life of luxury and evade sanctions and regulations, but his illicit activities eventually led to his arrest, imprisonment, and subsequent release in a prisoner exchange.