’Air Cocaine’ smuggling trial starts in France

French Jean Fauret (R) and Bruno Odos (C), respectively pilot and co-pilot, arrive on February 18, 2019 at the Assize Court of Aix-En-Provence, southern France ahead of a court hearing in the trial over 'Air Cocaine' plot to smuggle planeload of drugs. (AFP)
Updated 19 February 2019
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’Air Cocaine’ smuggling trial starts in France

  • Only one suspect, Ali Bouchareb, is in detention in the case while the other eight were granted bail pending the trial

AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France: Two former French air force pilots went on trial in France on Monday six years after they fled the Dominican Republic following a spectacular drugs bust on a private jet in the Caribbean nation.
In what has become known as the “Air Cocaine” case, Pascal Fauret and Bruno Odos are accused along with seven other defendants of trying to smuggle 680 kilogrammes (1,500 pounds) of the drug out of the country.
Dominican police found the narcotics packed into 26 suitcases onboard a Falcon 50 jet as it prepared to fly from the Dominican beach resort of Punta Cana to Saint-Tropez in the south of France in March 2013.
While out on bail, the two men managed to flee the Dominican Republic to French territory in the Caribbean in mysterious circumstances, but were re-arrested upon their return to the French mainland in November 2015.
They, along with two passengers, were found guilty in absentia and sentenced to 20 years in jail for drug-trafficking in the Dominican Republic in 2015.
All of them deny they knew that the cocaine was on board the flight.
The French court will hear scores of witnesses and experts over seven weeks and the defendants face up to 30 years in prison.
Only one suspect, Ali Bouchareb, is in detention in the case while the other eight were granted bail pending the trial.


Pakistan bracing for austere budget under IMF, finance chief says

Updated 25 May 2019
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Pakistan bracing for austere budget under IMF, finance chief says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is preparing a belt-tightening budget to tame its fiscal deficit, the de facto finance minister said on Saturday, adding that both civilian and military rulers agreed austerity measures were needed to stabilise the economy.
But Hafeez Shaikh, Prime Minister Imran Khan's top finance adviser, declined to say whether the military's hefty budget would be cut following last week's agreement in principle with the International Monetary Fund for a $6 billion loan.
The IMF has said the primary budget deficit should be trimmed by the equivalent of $5 billion, but previous civilian rulers have rarely dared to trim defence spending for fear of stoking tensions with the military.
Unlike some other civilian leaders in Pakistan's fragile democracy, Khan appears to have good relations with the country's powerful generals.
More than half of state spending currently goes on the military and debt-servicing costs, however, limiting the government's options for reducing expenditure.
"The budget that is coming will have austerity, that means that the government's expenditures will be put at a minimum level," Shaikh told a news conference in the capital Islamabad on Saturday, a few weeks before the budget for the 2019/20 fiscal year ending in June is due to be presented.
"We are all standing together in it whether civilians or our military," said Shaikh, a former finance minister appointed by Khan as part of a wider shake-up of his economic team in the last two months.
In the days since last week's agreement with the IMF, the rupee currency dropped 5% against the dollar and has lost a third of its value in the past year.
Under the IMF's terms, the government is expected to let the rupee fall to help correct an unsustainable current account deficit and cut its debt while trying to expand the tax base in a country where only 1% of people file returns.
Shaikh has been told by the IMF that the primary budget deficit -- excluding interest payments -- should be cut to 0.6% of GDP, implying a $5 billion reduction from the current projection for a deficit of 2.2% of GDP.
The next fiscal year's revenue collection target will be 5.55 trillion rupees ($36.88 billion), Shaikh told the news conference, highlighting the need for tough steps to broaden the tax base.