WHAT: Russia and the U.S. are apparently competing in a covert corruption auction over Viktor Bout, an alleged “Merchant of Death” illegal-arms dealer imprisoned in Thailand. Insiders say the Russians cannot afford to stop fighting Bout’s extradition stateside.
WHY: Bout allegedly offered to sell undercover U.S. agents advanced surface-to-air missiles in a 2008 sting. American intelligence officials are convinced Bout could only get such missiles if the deal was secretly backed by the Russian government.
OUTRAGEOUS BECAUSE: Although locked up in a Bangkok cell for two years, Bout allegedly continues to funnel state-of-the-art weapons to terrorist groups worldwide. He’s protected by Kremlin higher-ups closely associated with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.