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09BANGKOK1998 2009-08-13 09:09 2010-12-01 23:11 SECRET Embassy Bangkok

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NEXT STEPS ON THE VIKTOR BOUT EXTRADITION CASE 

IN THE WAKE OF LOWER COURT DEFEAT

VZCZCXRO1498 OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM DE RUEHBK #1998/01 2250918 ZNY SSSSS ZZH O 130918Z AUG 09 FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7869 INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA IMMEDIATE 0839 RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS IMMEDIATE 3439 RUEHFN/AMEMBASSY FREETOWN IMMEDIATE 0009 RUEHKI/AMEMBASSY KINSHASA IMMEDIATE 0029 RUEHMV/AMEMBASSY MONROVIA IMMEDIATE 0171 RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW IMMEDIATE 1633 RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK IMMEDIATE 5442 RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE RUEAWJL/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 BANGKOK 001998 

SIPDIS 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, NSC FOR BADER 

EO 12958 DECL: 08/13/2019
TAGS PTER, KCRM, TH, RS, CO
SUBJECT: NEXT STEPS ON THE VIKTOR BOUT EXTRADITION CASE IN
THE WAKE OF LOWER COURT DEFEAT
REF: BANGKOK 385 (NOTAL)

Classified By: Ambassador Eric G. John, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary and comment. The disappointing August 11 Thai Lower Court 
ruling against the extradition of Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, and 
its dubious legal reasoning, requires a multi-pronged effort to seek a 
successful reversal during the appeals process. The lead judge’s foray 
into foreign policy, rejecting the terrorism label and in effect embracing 
the FARC’s activities as purely political in nature, not criminal or acts 
of terrorism, has implications for Thailand. His confusion of the “dual 
criminality” concept with jurisdictional issues similarly raises questions 
for efforts by Thailand to extradite fugitive former PM Thaksin to face justice. 
The Embassy is working with Thai authorities to file an appeal of the lower 
court’s ruling and to press home the implications of the court ruling were 
Bout to walk free. In the early afternoon on August 13, we were assured 
that the notice of intention to appeal has been filed.


2. (C) At the same time, the Embassy recommends the State Department, 
Attorney General Holder, and the US Mission to the UN in New York engage 
the Thai Ambassador in Washington and the Thai PermRep in New York in parallel. 
In addition, the Department should seriously consider asking Belgium, which 
issued an arrest warrant for Bout in 2002 for money laundering and conspiracy, 
Colombia, in the case of the FARC, and African countries which have suffered 
greatly from Bout’s arms trade in the past to weigh in with the RTG. Finally, 
we recommend consideration of laying down a marker in Moscow about Bout, 
looking forward to the possibility that Bout may end up back in Russia were 
the appeal of the Lower Court ruling might not succeed. End Summary and comment.


Thai Lower Court rules against Bout extradition
--------------------------------------------- -- 

3. (C) On August 11, the judge in the Viktor Bout extradition case ruled 
against U.S. and Thai government efforts to extradite Bout to the United 
States. Two key elements of his reasoning were: that the FARC in Colombia, 
to which Bout was conspiring to send weapons, was a political rather than a 
terrorist group; and that the “dual criminality” standard of our extradition 
treaty with Thailand had not been met since Bout could not be prosecuted in 
Thailand on the charges which the U.S. wants him to face in the U.S. In 
our view, the judge was wrong on both counts.


4. (C) After the verdict, as the Department has seen, the DCM spoke on the 
record to press outside the court room and expressed disappointment and 
mystification over the ruling and stated that we would fully support RTG 
efforts to appeal the decision. We have continued the same themes in 
subsequent interactions with the press.


Engaging the Thai immediately
----------------------------- 



5. (C) The Ambassador called Foreign Minister Kasit immediately after the 
verdict on August 11 and expressed deep disappointment, noting that the 
verdict was not justified on legal grounds and that the judge had clearly 
been in error on several key points. He reminded Kasit that over the past 
year and a half since Bout’s arrest in Bangkok, the USG had repeatedly 
underlined the importance of the case, all the way up to the Secretary of 
State and POTUS levels. In the short-term, the Ambassador told Kasit, we 
need the Foreign Ministry to do its part in forwarding the necessary 
documentation to the Attorney-General’s office so that the intent to 
appeal can be filed in the requisite forty-eight hours. (Note: Although 
the court’s ruling and a new extradition law specify that the appeal must 
be filed within 72 hours, the applicable extradition law sets forth the 
shorter time frame, which we have followed.) Kasit assured the Ambassador 
that he had already instructed his legal department to do so. The Ambassador 
also told Kasit that we expected Bout would remain in detention during the 
appeals process. The MFA’s Legal and Treaties Department faxed the Attorney 
General’s office late evening August 11 supporting the appeal; at the request 
of the Office of the Attorney General, the Embassy sent a diplomatic note to 
the MFA and the OAG on August 13 requesting that the RTG appeal the lower 
court verdict prior to the forty-eight hour deadline (note: the RTG was 
closed August 12 for a National Holiday, the Queen’s Birthday.) 
At approximately 1:25 p.m. on August 13, the MFA and OAG advised the 
Embassy that the requisite notice of intention to appeal had been filed 
and received by the court.


Next steps
---------- 

6. (C) The Embassy’s “Bout team” met August 13 to review next steps that 
will help us prevail on appeal. Our immediate priority was to ensure that 
the notice of intent to appeal was filed on time (within 48 hours of the 
verdict) and that the appeal itself is filed within thirty days of the verdict.


7. (C) We will make clear to the RTG that we expect Bout to remain 
incarcerated during the appeals process, as specified under Thai law 
and the August 11 court ruling. Given that the same judge will rule 
on any bail motions brought by Bout (we expect Bout’s attorneys to push 
hard on bail), however, his custody status during the pendency of the 
appeal is a genuine concern. We also intend to make clear to the Thai 
government (the Ambassador is seeking to call FM Kasit, in Malaysia 
August 13-14 on a working visit, and will engage the highest available 
MFA official in Bangkok) that we expect this deficient ruling to receive 
a comprehensive and meaningful review by the appellate court. Moreover, 
the Ambassador plans to tell Kasit and other senior Thai officials that, 
given that the Thai government arrested Bout and sought his extradition 
to the U.S., the Thai government should be as alarmed by the judge’s 
ruling as we are. Therefore, we would encourage the RTG to issue a public 
statement expressing disappointment in the judge’s decision, its intention 
to win on appeal, and a reiteration of Thailand’s commitment to both the 
struggle against international terrorism and to its extensive law 
enforcement relationship with the United States. The Ambassador intends 
to make similar points to newly appointed NSC Secretary General Tawee and 
to key figures at the Palace. Without being counter-productively 
heavy-handed, we will make clear that we see Thai executive branch 
reaction to the ruling as a test of the relationship.

8. (C) At the same time, however, we believe it is important to remember 
that our partners in the Royal Thai Police, the Office of the Attorney 
General, the Foreign Ministry, and even the Royal Thai Navy, largely did 
everything we asked them to do on the Bout case, including going the 
extra mile to facilitate our requests. Our posture and actions thus should 
make clear that we are disappointed with the judge’s ruling but not with 
Thai government cooperation in the Bout case.


9. (C) That said, coming on the heels of the September 2008 Thai appellate 
ruling affirming a lower court’s denial of our request to extradite Iranian 
Jamshid Ghassemi, who was in Thailand to procure controlled technology in 
violation of the Arms Export Control Act, the question has to be asked 
whether we can count on the Thai courts to do the right thing on high-profile 
extradition cases that will affect Thailand’s relations with third countries 
(we continue to have a perfect record on routine extraditions from Thailand 
to the United States). Our reluctant conclusion is that we cannot.


10. (S) The Department will recall that in February of this year, after 
significant indications that the Russians were trying to use bribes to 
influence the outcome of the case, the Ambassador made representations 
to Prime Minister Abhisit (reftel) that we expected the process to be 
free of inappropriate influence and Abhisit undertook to do so. The
Ambassador also intervened at the same time with Defense Minister Prawit 
Wongsuwan and the Royal Thai Naval Commander Khamtorn Pumhiran to insist 
that false testimony by xxxxxxxxx  (that Bout had been in Thailand as part 
of a routine naval procurement) be rebutted. The Thai Navy subsequently 
issued a letter to that effect. We will remind the Thais of their commitment 
to a clean process and ask that they assure us again on the front.


What We are Doing here/What We Suggest Washington Do

--------------------------------------------- ------- 

11. (C) Given the above, we are undertaking the following steps here in 
Bangkok, most of which should also be reflected when the Department calls 
in Thai Ambassador Don Pramuwinai, a move we fully support: -- The Ambassador 
will immediately seek a meeting with Foreign Minister Kasit and other 
appropriate senior Thai officials to make clear that, while we appreciate 
the cooperation on Bout over the past year and a half, we are disappointed 
and mystified by the judge’s ruling, which is flawed on several key points.
 
-- In particular, the judge’s characterization of the FARC as a legitimate 
political actor would suggest that insurgent groups in southern Thailand are 
likewise political in nature, perhaps outside the scope of Thailand’s new 
counterterrorism laws. The ruling also suggests that anyone seeking to send 
them arms from a third country could not be extradited to Thailand on 
political grounds. -- Moreover, the judge’s misguided analysis of the 
“dual criminality” standard suggests that fugitives cannot be extradited 
from Thailand unless a Thai court actually had jurisdiction over the 
alleged crime, not whether the alleged conduct is viewed as criminal 
conduct under the laws of both countries. This decision comes at the same 
time Thailand is pursuing extradition of fugitive former PM Thaksin Shinawatra 
for abuse of power/corruption-related charges; the judge’s ruling would also 
seem to undermine RTG positions in their Thaksin extradition effort. -- 
Therefore, we expect that the AG’s office will vigorously pursue the appeal 
of the ruling and that Bout will remain incarcerated during the pendency of 
the appeal. -- We seek assurances that the case will be afforded a comprehensive 
and meaningful appellate review, presumably handled by serious, experienced Thai 
judges. (Note: Appeals are normally handled by a panel of three judges. End Note.) 


-- We ask that the Thai government issue a statement making clear its own 
disappointment with the judge’s ruling and reiterating its commitment to the fight 
against international terrorism and to the law enforcement relationship with the U.S. 
-- We will continue to make our points to the press and we are pulling together a 
“FARC fact sheet” for public distribution that we will send in to Washington for comment 
and clearance today.

12. (C) We suggest that Washington strongly consider the following actions: 
-- In addition to the Department calling in the Thai Ambassador, we recommend that 
Attorney General Holder also call him in. AG Holder could point out the extensive U.S. 
commitment of law enforcement resources to Thailand (DEA and other), as well as our 
judicial training efforts, and that a statement from the RTG as outlined above would 
be very helpful as the U.S. decides where best to commit its law enforcement 
resources around the world. A senior DEA official might also wish to sit in to highlight 
the massive DEA commitment to Thailand. (Note: Our DOJ Attache who has led our legal 
efforts on Bout here will be in Washington on August 20-21. End Note.) 


-- Discussion of a POTUS telcon to PM Abhisit has been under way for some time; they 
have not spoken in the seven months both have been in office. We suggest that the call 
be accelerated and that it include a serious discussion of our concerns over the 
implications of the Bout verdict, as outlined above. We believe POTUS involvement on 
Bout would have significant effect here. 


-- We suggest Washington engage the Colombian government on the implications of the Bout 
verdict. We suggest inquiring whether Colombia considers the FARC to be a terrorist 
organization, whether it would be willing to submit a brief in the appeals process, 
and also make public statements to that effect. We also suggest exploring whether 
Colombia would be willing to ask Thailand for Bout’s extradition while he (hopefully) 
is still in detention during the appeals process. (Note: There is no Colombian Embassy 
in Bangkok; the Embassy in Kuala Lumpur covers Thailand. We understand the Thais cover 
Colombia from their Embassy in Lima. End note.) It would be useful if the Government 
of Colombia also raised its concerns in Moscow. -- We also suggest exploring the 
possibility of whether governments whose citizens have borne the bloody results of 
Bout’s activities over the years, such as Sierra Leone, Liberia and Congo, would be 
willing to publicly express dismay/engage the Thai government on the verdict and w
hether any affected government would be willing to ask for his extradition. 


-- While the Bout focus is now on Thailand, this is at heart a U.S.-Russian matter. 
The Department may wish to make clear to Moscow our concerns on Bout’s activities 
and seek assurances that they will cease. Also, we should consider asking the 
Russians to prosecute Bout if, in the end, he walks here in Thailand. At the very 
least perhaps we could force the Russians to publicly refuse to do so. 


-- The Thai ruling seems inconsistent with several United Nations determinations 
on Bout’s nature over the years (see below). We suggest our USUN call in the Thai 
Permrep and lay out how we view the issues in terms of Thailand’s standing with 
the United Nations. Better yet would be for the appropriate UN official to call 
in the Thai Permrep and seek an explanation of how the verdict can be justified 
in light of Thailand’s support of relevant UN resolutions: 
- UNSCR 1521 (2003) 
- Liberia - UNSCR 1343 (March 2001) 
- Liberia - Report of Experts Panel under 1343 
- Final Monitoring Report on Angola Sanctions (2000)


-- Finally, despite the listing by the US and EU of the FARC as a terrorist 
organization, we understand that the FARC is not listed as such by the UN. 
A move to have the FARC listed formally by the UN would assist the effort 
to keep Bout in custody. JOHN


Source: http://cablegate.wikileaks.org/cable/2009/08/09BANGKOK1998.html
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Written by thaicables

December 2, 2010 at 3:02 am

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