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Operation Relentless

by Damien Lewis

By 2007 Viktor Bout had become the world's foremost arms dealer. Known as the 'Merchant of Death' he was "Public Enemy No. 1" to Western agencies - a ruthless criminal worth around $6 billion. By his own admission he was second only to Osama Bin Laden on the most-wanted list.


For years Bout eluded capture, building up a labyrinthine network of airlines selling weapons to order to dictators, rebels, despots and terror groups worldwide. He was hunted by the CIA, NSA, MI6, as well as sought by the United Nations for being their top global sanctions buster. Holed up in Moscow - from where he ran a suite of offices selling anything from AK47s to state-of-the-art helicopter gunships and anti-aircraft missiles - he was shielded by a Russian state that was a partner in his dark dealings.

In short, Bout appeared utterly invulnerable and beyond any hope of capture.

Step forward former SAS man Mike Snow. After serving in the Regiment, Snow had worked as a bush pilot across Africa, where he had got to know Bout well. Via its own secretive, shadow network, Snow was approached by two US agents from the Drugs Enforcement Agency (DEA). They had one question: was Snow able to get to Viktor Bout?


This is the incredible tale of Operation Relentless, the top-secret mission that Snow and a handful of operatives launched to entrap Bout - a story that ranges from the tropical jungles of Colombia to the ice-bound streets of Moscow, and from horrific bloodshed and tyranny in the Congo to laundering millions on Europe’s streets, culminating in a sting operation like no other.