BANGKOK, Thailand -- American officials hoping to extradite Viktor Bout on Wednesday (August 25) were unable to fly the suspected Russian weapons smuggler to New York, because the U.S. added fresh allegations against him which must be heard or dismissed in a Thai court.

A sleek, white, twin-engine jet from the U.S. reportedly waited in vain on the tarmac at Bangkok's Don Muang air force base on Wednesday (August 25), only to be told that he would not be handed over without going through some additional legal hoops.

"We are not sending Viktor Bout back today. There are still several legal steps to go through," Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Wednesday (August 25).

"Before Bout's extradition can take place, the second case needs to be dropped by the court," Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdi said on Wednesday (August 25).

The unpredictable problem could be quickly sorted out by U.S. officials and a Bangkok judge, allowing Mr. Bout to then immediately be flown to New York, or could meander through Thailand's murky court system resulting in a delay or cancellation of his extradition, permitting him to walk free.

The surprising development prompted a glimmer of hope among those defending Mr. Bout, because the extradition ruling said he must be sent to New York within 90 days or else released.

The U.S. attempt to extradite Mr. Bout "has descended close to farce, with Thai agencies squabbling about how to proceed," reported London's Financial Times on Wednesday (August 25).

American prosecutors created the snafu in February when they added financial crimes -- including money laundering and wire fraud -- to a U.S. list of reasons why Mr. Bout had to be extradited to New York to stand trial.

Those seemingly tighter charges were added because in August 2009, a lower Bangkok court rejected New York's extradition request, which was based on a sting operation by undercover U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents who bugged Mr. Bout in a Bangkok hotel room.

Mr. Bout and the agents reportedly discussed a deal involving unmanned drones, rocket-propelled grenades, surface-to-air missiles and other weapons and ammunition.

The March 2008 sting, however, was deemed insufficient grounds to extradite the Russian because, as a lower court judge ruled, no weapons or money were produced in Bangkok and thus it was not a crime for foreigners to simply discuss illegal activity in Thailand if they did not commit any actual crime in this Southeast Asian nation.

A Grand Jury's "Count One" in the "United States of America vs. Viktor Bout" case, filed in New York's Southern District court, is titled: "Conspiracy to Kill United States Nationals."

The DEA said it convinced Mr. Bout to sell weapons to Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, which could be used to kill U.S. citizens in South America, but the lower court judge also said FARC was not considered a "terrorist" group by the Thai government.

After the U.S. added the financial crimes to their allegations against Mr. Bout, an appeals court agreed on Friday (August 20) to extradite him, but warned that the alleged financial crimes must now be heard by a separate court in Bangkok or formally withdrawn -- which meant he could not be sent to New York on Wednesday (August 25) as planned.

The new U.S. indictment reportedly said New York prosecutors wanted to seize Mr. Bout's alleged accounts at Wachovia, the International Bank of Commerce, Deutsche Bank, and the Israel Discount Bank of New York.

Mr. Bout allegedly hid his name behind a front company, Samar Airlines, and tried to buy two Boeing aircraft while a U.S. ban was in force against any American company or bank doing business with him.

Nicknamed the "Lord of War" and "Merchant of Death," the former Soviet air force officer and linguist purportedly is one of the world's biggest private weapons dealers.

Weapons sold or delivered by Mr. Bout, 43, allegedly boosted rebel wars in Africa, the Middle East and South America, with customers including Liberia's Charles Taylor, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Afghanistan's Taliban and others.

"Governments -- particularly the U.S., British and French -- and the United Nations used his aircraft long after it was known who he was, and what types of business he was engaged in," said Douglas Farah, who has written extensively on Mr. Bout's deals.

In a separate twist, a Parliamentarian in Prime Minister Abhisit's ruling Democrat Party, Sirichok Sopha, said on Wednesday (August 25) he visited Mr. Bout in prison in April, but Mr. Sirichok denied opposition politicians' allegations that he was trying to get the Russian to somehow frame former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

"Let me explain about my involvement with Victor Bout, his lawyer has confirmed I met with Victor. This is true, but my meeting was not about faulting or framing Thaksin," Mr. Sirichok said.

The Parliamentarian said he instead wanted to ask Mr. Bout if he knew anything about an airplane which landed in Bangkok on December 12, 2009 with more than 30 tons of weapons onboard, purportedly being smuggled from North Korea to Europe or the Middle East.

The plane's cargo was seized by Thailand, but the five-man crew -- mostly from Belarus and Kazakhstan -- were eventually released with no independent confirmation about who financed the smuggling operation, who sent the Ilyushin Il-76 cargo plane from Pyongyang, or where the weapons were ultimately destined.

"Thailand’s efforts in counter-proliferation have also directly contributed to regional peace, and were on full-display last year when Thai police interdicted a substantial shipment of arms from North Korea," U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs William J. Burns said during a visit to Bangkok on July 16.

Richard S Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist who has reported news from Asia since 1978. He is co-author of "Hello My Big Big Honey!", a non-fiction book of investigative journalism. His web page is (Copyright 2010 Richard S Ehrlich)