NEW YORK, November 10 (RIA Novosti) - The US Department of Justice has refused to transfer convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout to Russia for him to serve his prison time at home.
"After considering all of the appropriate factors in this transfer application, the United States has denied the request to transfer to Russia," the department said.
Bout’s attorney Albert Dayan told RIA Novosti: "We have just received a denial. The US Department of Justice cites the seriousness of the crime and says it does not want to create an undesirable precedent."
The Justice Department's denial obtained by RIA Novosti reads in part: "The United States denied the transfer application because the prisoner has a pending appeal, because of the seriousness of the offense, because of serious law enforcement concerns and because the prisoner is a poor candidate due to his criminal history."
A former Soviet military officer, Viktor Bout was convicted in November 2011 of conspiracy to kill US nationals, including military officers and employees, conspiring to supply man portable anti-aircraft missiles, and selling millions of dollars worth of weapons to the Colombian rebel group FARC.
The businessman, who denies the charges against him, was sentenced to 25 years in April 2012. Bout is serving his prison term in the United States Penitentiary, Marion (USP Marion) in Illinois. Russia has tried to have Bout transferred from the US in line with the 1983 Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, but has failed.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has reiterated the view that Bout's prosecution was political in nature, and said Russia will do anything it legally can to get him sent home.
Dayan also said Moscow may file a repeated request for Bout’s transfer when he serves two years of his term or in certain other cases, for example after an appeal by Bout’s defense is considered.
The US Department of Justice said: "The prisoner may reapply two years from the date of this letter, at which time, the United States will review the information already available, as well as any new information that the prisoner provides."
"If the prisoner believes that the circumstances relating to the denial of the transfer application have changed significantly, the prisoner may write to the Department of Justice to seek a reconsideration of the transfer decision earlier than two years from the date of this letter," it said.
"Unless the prisoner is able to show that the reasons supporting the denial of his transfer application have changed substantially, it is unlikely that the United States will change its decision," the department said.
Dayan told RIA Novosti in early October there is new evidence to support an appeal for the case to be reconsidered. The defense claimed that certain US officials exerted pressure, intimidation, and bribery regarding Thai officials who decided to extradite Bout to the United States.
Bout was arrested in Bangkok in 2008, but only extradited to the US in November 2010 after a protracted legal battle against the extradition finally failed when the Thai cabinet backed the US request to send him to America. Bout's defense has repeatedly claimed that the extradition was illegal.