This isn’t surprising. Even Bout’s defense lawyer, Albert Dayan, hasn’t shied from acknowledging that Bout commanded one of the large arms transport fleet in the post-Cold War era until he was sanctioned by the United Nations in March 2004.Pilots and aviation companies are the lifeline for illegal arms pipelines and often are wars’ repeat offenders—continuing to aid and abet genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes with impunity. These enablers come in all stripes and from all nationalities but often shares common characteristics: a pilot license and/or plane, a daredevil spirit, and callousness towards humanity in order to make a buck.While such enablers may face international opprobrium, they have operated unscathed for years because few deterrents exist and even less enforcement efforts target their complicity.
Aviators are not alone in all this of course. Other types of intermediaries facilitate illicit arms deals and are equally unregulated.In common parlance, arms middlemen are called “brokers” and include financiers, import/export agents, negotiators, and transport operators used to arrange one or more aspect of an arms deal between the supplier and client. Typically, these middlemen are not the original owners of the weapons and reside neither in the supplier country nor the place where the arms are received.Since arms brokers play a legitimate role on behalf of lawful manufacturers and governments, an outright ban is not called for. But a tight regulatory regime at both the international and national level is needed to ensure brokers engage only in authorized sales that conform to international law and to provide law enforcement with the necessary tools to pursue offenders.
To date, far less than half of the world’s governments have arms brokering controls in place for small arms and light weapons like those Bout has trafficked, and even these vary tremendously in scope and penalties.To its credit, theU.S.has one of the most comprehensive arms brokering laws on the books, which first took effect during the Clinton Administration. Passed by the U.S. Congress in 1996 as an amendment to the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), this legislation was designed to close the loophole on unscrupulous off-shore arms trafficking as in the case of Bout and his companies.The law requires all citizens as well as foreign nationals residing or conducting business in theU.S.to register and obtain licenses for any arms deals that they transact on or off American soil.