Seven convicted in French ‘Air Cocaine’ smuggling trial

In this file photo taken on February 18, 2019 French Jean Fauret (R) and Bruno Odos (C), respectively pilot and co-pilot, arrive 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 06 April 2019
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Seven convicted in French ‘Air Cocaine’ smuggling trial

  • Only Bouchareb was held in detention during the trial while the other eight had been granted bail

AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France: A French court on Friday sentenced seven people implicated in a drug smuggling operation to up to 18 years in prison each with two ex-air force pilots getting six-year terms.
Pascal Fauret and Bruno Odos had fled the Dominican Republic following a raid on the private jet they were to fly to Saint-Tropez, southern France, but were re-arrested in France in November 2015.
In what has become known as the “Air Cocaine” case, Fauret and Odos were accused along with seven other defendants of trying to smuggle 680 kilogrammes (1,500 pounds) of the drug out of the country.
Two were acquitted following a seven-week trial.
Ringleader Ali Bouchareb was sentenced to 18 years in prison, while his right-hand man, Frank Colin, got 12 years.
Only Bouchareb was held in detention during the trial while the other eight had been granted bail.
Colin was the only defendant who had admitted to taking part in the smuggling operation but claimed he was in fact an “infiltrated agent.”
Dominican police found the drugs packed into 26 suitcases onboard a Falcon 50 jet as it was about to fly from the Dominican beach resort of Punta Cana to Saint-Tropez in March 2013.
While out on bail, Fauret and Odos 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.
On Friday, five French magistrates deliberated for 11 hours before handing down their verdict.
“It’s a scandal! It’s political! There is no justice...” screamed people close to the defendants as the verdict was announced.
Former customs agent Francois-Xavier Manchet was sentenced to five years in jail and barred from working again as a civil servant.


Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

Updated 26 June 2019
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Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

  • But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues
  • The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance

NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to reduce heightened trade tension with India on Wednesday, promising a renewed focus on negotiating improved trade and investment ties between the two nations.
But Pompeo, on a visit to India, gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues ranging from access to Indian markets for leading American companies to New Delhi’s demands for foreign firms to store Indian data in the country, and exports of steel and aluminum to the United States.
The two nations are “friends who can help each other all around the world,” Pompeo told a joint news conference with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar after they met.
The current differences were expressed “in the spirit of friendship,” he added.
The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance.
In particular, the sudden introduction of new e-commerce rules for foreign investors in February angered the Americans because it showed New Delhi was prepared to move the goalposts to hurt two of the largest US companies, discount retailer Walmart, and Amazon.com Inc.
Walmart last year invested $16 billion to buy control of Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart.
Just days before Pompeo’s visit, India slapped higher retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products following Washington’s withdrawal of key trade privileges for New Delhi.
Jaishankar, a former Indian ambassador to the United States, played down the spat on Wednesday.
“If you trade with someone and they are your biggest trading partner, it is impossible you don’t have trade issues,” he said.
India’s ties with Russia and Iran, both now subject to US sanctions, are also a sore point.
US pressure has led India to stop buying oil from Iran, a top energy supplier. The United States has also stepped up pressure on India not to proceed with its purchase of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia.
The missile deal and Iranian oil were both discussed during their meeting, Jaishankar and Pompeo said, but mentioned no resolution of either at the news conference.
Earlier, Pompeo met Prime Minister Narendra Modi for talks at his official residence in the capital, New Delhi, and they exchanged handshakes in images broadcast on television.
“The Prime Minister expressed his strong commitment to achieve the full potential of bilateral relations in trade and economy, energy, defense, counterterrorism and people-to-people contacts,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, without elaborating.
Pompeo is expected to round off the trip with a policy speech hosted by the US embassy, before departing on Thursday for a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 nations in Japan.