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08th Dec 2022

Russia frees US basketball star in swap with ‘Merchant of Death arms dealer

Steve Hopkins

Viktor Bout’s gun-running inspired the 2005 Hollywood film Lord of War

US basketball star Brittney Griner has reportedly been exchanged for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout in a prisoner swap agreement between the US and Russia.

Griner was held at a Moscow airport in February for possessing cannabis oil and was last month sent to a penal colony.

Bout has been held in a US prison for 12 years.

The swap was approved by US President Joe Biden in recent days, sources told CBS, and Russian media reported the swap had taken place in Abu Dhabi.

The US was said to have proposed the exchange, aware that Moscow had long sought Bout’s release.

Bout sold arms to warlords and rogue governments, becoming one of the world’s most wanted men and earning him the nickname the ‘Merchant of Death’.

The Russian’s exploits inspired the 2005 Hollywood film Lord of War, which was loosely based on his life.

Bout’s gun running was brought to an end by an elaborate US sting in 2008, when he was arrested at a hotel in Bangkok.

He was extradited two years later and has spent the past 12 years languishing in an American jail for conspiring to support terrorists and kill Americans.

Biden signed the order for Bout’s release, commuting his 25-year jail term.

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