Alla Bout, ‘Merchant of Death’ Viktor Bout’s Wife, Fights to Free Him

She is now serving her husband’s sentence in Marion prison in Illinois, searching for ways to bring him home from Moscow. Viktor Bout, Russia’s most famous arms dealer, became widely known as the “Merchant of Death” before he was sentenced to 25 years in federal court.

Alla Bout, the wife of the world’s most recognizable gunrunner, describes it as “devastating” with an exhausted tone of voice and a tired expression on her petite face. She accuses the U.S. Government of blaming her husband for the injustice of being labeled as the face of senseless civil wars and other forms of evil.

Just outside Moscow, 30 kilometers away from Galitsyno-7, the Bouts’ dilapidated two-storey house appears modest in comparison to the enormous mansions in the opulent gated community. Alla Bout expresses her frustration about not having enough money to repair the leaky roof or deteriorating exterior. Standing across the street, she waves at a white mansion with an Art Deco-style design and remarks, “If [Viktor] truly amassed a billion-dollar fortune, as his accusers in New York allege, he would have constructed something similar to that.” Anxiously, she checks the signal on her iPhone while awaiting her weekly 14-minute call from Illinois.

In 2001, upon hearing the phrase “your spouse is a terrorist” for the first time, she recounts, “We were at the U.S. Embassy in the United Arab Emirates, where we had been residing since 1993, to submit our visa application.” She recalls thinking, “We were informed that America does not admit individuals involved in terrorism. It made me wonder, if my husband is deemed a terrorist, then who qualifies as nonthreatening?”

The couple moved back to their gated house in Moscow after living for a few years in a studio apartment, where she says they lived on about $3,000 a month from her fashion income. He claims to have lost about $10 million, despite operating a cargo airline servicing African hotspots. As a result, his bank accounts were frozen. It was reported that Viktor Bout, who served as a Soviet military intelligence officer in Angola and violated arms embargoes in the wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, had violated United Nations sanctions that year.

“I am filled with pride for his unwavering conduct in a U.S. Prison,” she expresses. “I felt immense pride for him when he orchestrated the liberation of a hijacked Ilyshin-76 aircraft crew by the Taliban in Kandahar back in 1995, and I have shared my life with this resolute, courageous, and devoted man for more than two decades,” she reveals. To aid her husband in maintaining his mental well-being while incarcerated, she has sent him extensive collections of literature by Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and Rajneesh Oshe, the renowned Indian philosopher whose teachings hold a special place in the Bouts’ hearts.

She asks herself, “What are these questions she is asking while on vacation in Europe? Would it be acceptable for Russian agents to kidnap executives from a firearms manufacturer in Georgia? She says with emotion, ‘In 2008, America sold weapons to Georgia that killed Russian citizens during the war.’ Even if he sold weapons today, many U.S. Citizens who are behind bars for not having weapons would never deny that her husband was once a soldier.”

From my understanding, that was his sole proven offense,” she states. “During that recorded dialogue, he expressed his desire to harm Americans,” she adds. However, according to U.S. Prosecutors, he engaged in negotiations to trade rockets with individuals who were actually undercover U.S. Agents pretending to be Revolutionary Armed Forces or FARC rebels. In March 2008, after several years, Bout traveled to Thailand “only for a duration of four days, in order to sell his remaining two inferior quality airplanes,” Alla Bout reveals. In 2001, Viktor Bout’s notoriety skyrocketed. He faced allegations of supplying aircraft to the Taliban and aiding al Qaeda in transporting their funds and gold from Sudan to Afghanistan. Following the events of 9/11, he acquired a new moniker: Russia’s Osama bin Laden.

She says that only journalists from Channel 1 are coming to the television station shooting about her film. Nobody has helped her, she says, even though she is a victim of the tense relationship between the United States and Russia and a political prisoner. She adds that Russian officials, at the very least in their statements, support her husband as a political prisoner. Liza, along with her daughter and her, have been shunned by her relatives or friends, especially those with assets in the United States, and most notably by Alla, Bout’s friend.

She jumps to her phone when her husband calls from prison. The tones of their conversation are hurried and neutral. If he played a game of Russian pantomime with his fellow inmates, she suggests he would cheer them on by saying “up”. His fellow inmates include not only run-of-the-mill criminals but also serious offenders, famous tax evaders, and convicted Islamic terrorists. She sounds grateful for his suggestion to use apple juice and milk for their English bulldog Josephine’s eye drops. She quickly describes the situation with their high-school daughter, Liza, and how she goes to school in St. Petersburg to avoid journalists. She asks about the Russian reaction to some news about Viktor Bout and promises to double-check the human rights resolution from the UN.

“She says that some people on the verge of hysteria were serious and they aren’t discussing Oshe’s teachings or the types they are. He didn’t think the other inmates in his jail would play games.”

In a letter to Itar-Tass this week, Viktor Bout writes, “According to Dostoyevsky (if I am not mistaken), prison serves as a reflection of society. Since I have never been to the U.S. Before, the picture would be highly distorted, and I hold onto the hope that there exists an alternative America.” He describes the inmates as “extremely peaceful and well-organized, predominantly peaceful.” Additionally, he includes a quote from Oshe emphasizing the significance of communication: “Once you lose the ability to communicate, you suddenly find yourself disconnected from human society and civilization. You become one with the trees, rocks, and the sky.”

Alla Bout gets offended by the suggestion that her husband, once a military interpreter and now an agent for Russian secret ministries or services, has never received any money from them and has worked for 24 hours a day to make his own fortune, as she says, “gone all is now which fortune own his make to day a hours 24 worked he.”

In order for my spouse’s relocation to Russia to complete the remainder of his sentence, she made a formal request for the Russian Ministry of Justice to engage in negotiations. This request was authorized by her spouse to draft official correspondence back in June of last year. Subsequently, the letter was forwarded to the Russian Foreign Ministry and eventually reached the relevant authorities in the United States. She does not believe that her husband’s case stands a chance of being reconsidered, neither before nor after the U.S. Elections in November. Nevertheless, she remains hopeful for a potential prisoner exchange, expressing, “There have been suggestions that he could be swapped for Mikhail Khodorkovsky. I am optimistic that all the spies in Moscow will be apprehended and traded for my husband.”