MANHATTAN (CN) – A federal judge said she could find no evidence that two Drug Enforcement Administration agents violated the rights of suspected international arms smuggler Viktor Bout, whose exploits loosely formed the basis of Nicholas Cage’s character in “Lord of War.”
Bout has moved to suppress statements he made to the DEA after his arrest by Thai police in March 2008. He faces a four-count indictment for conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals and other charges.
One agent recalled at a hearing Monday how he read about Bout in the 2007 book “The Merchant of Death,” co-authored by investigative journalist Douglas Farah. Bout told the agent: “The book is bullshit.”
“Lord of War” came out three years earlier. Cage’s character, Yuri Orlov, is said to have been based on several real-life Russian businessmen connected to weapons crimes, including Oleg Orlov, Semion Mogilevich and Bout..
Prosecutors say that the agents questioned Bout for about 30 minutes in a “professionally conducted” interview at the Sofitel luxury hotel in Bangkok.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan McGuire submitted photographs into evidence that he said shows the agents handing Bout a yellow piece of paper with his Miranda rights.
The agents testified that they immediately ended the interview after Bout told them he wanted to speak to his lawyer.
But Bout claimed in a four-page affidavit that the agents threatened him with the prospect of “heat, hunger, disease and rape” in Thailand’s prisons if he did not cooperate.
The agents vigorously denied making any threats, and said they had only passing knowledge of Thailand’s legal and prison systems.
“I’ve never been in a Thai jail,” Special Agent Robert Zachariasiewicz said. The other DEA agent, Louis Milione, testified that he knew more about the “lore” of Thai prisons than the reality. He said he helped Bout, who was handcuffed in custody, to use the bathroom several times.
Bout’s attorney Albert Dayan said the agents “lied” when they told Bout that it was impossible to postpone the interview with U.S. agents because the Thai government would not give them access to him again soon.
The agents replied that it was not a lie; they believed it was true.
They said the interview occurred after Bout told confidential sources for the U.S. government that he planned to sell weapons to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), a designated terrorist organization that planned to use the weapons to kill Americans in Colombia.
The sting in the Sofitel was part of the Bout investigation code-named “Operation Relentless,” Zachariasiewicz said.
In addition to FARC, Bout is suspected of selling weapons to unsavory characters or regimes in Afghanistan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Sudan.
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin told Dayan that she could not find evidence on the record to support Bout’s position, but she reserved judgment for a later date.
Another hearing is set for June 16.