Bout’s ex-business partner turned down deal with US officials twice - lawyer
MOSCOW, November 28 (RAPSI) - Richard Chichakli, former business partner of Russian businessman Viktor Bout, currently serving a term in the US, refused to make a deal with US officials twice, according to Bout’s lawyer Alexei Binetsky.
“Chichakli has been offered a deal twice. Initially, he was offered a term of between 38 and 42 months. Then they offered a much shorter term, at least half the length. However, Chichakli preferred to be tried in an open trial with a jury,” Binetsky told RAPSI, added that during preliminary hearings, some charges against Chichakli were dropped.
Chichakli, who has both Syrian and US citizenship, was arrested in Australia on January 9 based on a request filed by US authorities. He was then extradited to the US to face charges connected with allegations that he conspired with Viktor Bout and others in order to violate the IEEPA, according to a statement released in May by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
A superseding indictment filed in late October reads that Chichakli faces one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), one count of conspiracy to launder money, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and six counts of wire fraud.
Chichakli claims that the case against him was fabricated because his testimony hindered Bout’s extradition from Thailand to the US. Chichakli believes he is being prosecuted out of revenge.
Chichakli has decided to represent himself in his trial, which began last week. The court refused to hear the testimony of most of his witnesses, including several FBI agents, employees of the US Department of Justice and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Douglas Farah, journalist and author of a controversial book, Merchant of Death, a profile of Viktor Bout, was also expected to take the stand.
“Judging from the prosecution’s strategy, Viktor Bout should have been the main witness, with Sergei Bout, his brother, coming next,” Binetsky said. Taking into account the agreement on mutual legal aid between Russia and the US and professional collaboration between the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Federal Service for Drug Control, there was nothing stopping US officials from asking the Russian side to allow them to interview Sergei Bout in Moscow.
“I do not rule out that both Sergei and Viktor could provide evidence that would strengthen the defense. This is what an impartial trial is supposed to ensure,” the lawyer said.