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.


Macron meets Syrian Kurds, vows French support in fight against Daesh

Updated 12 min 42 sec ago
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Macron meets Syrian Kurds, vows French support in fight against Daesh

  • Macron assured the SDF representatives, who were not named, of the "active support of France in the fight against Daesh which continues to be a menace for collective security"
  • European capitals are all keeping a careful eye on the Daesh prisoners held by the SDF after the defeat of the extremists, given many are dual nationals

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron on Friday hosted representatives of the Kurdish-led force that defeated Daesh extremists in Syria, assuring them of France's support in the fight against remaining extremists.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had in late March flushed out Daesh from their last bastion in Syria but still warn the terrorists remain a threat in places.
The SDF is an umbrella force of Kurds and Arabs dominated by Kurds from the People's Protection Units (YPG) militia. It is regarded with huge distrust by neighbouring Turkey which sees the YPG as a terror group.
Macron assured the SDF representatives, who were not named, of the "active support of France in the fight against Daesh which continues to be a menace for collective security," the presidency said in a statement.
Particularly important was the support in the "handling of terrorist fighters held as prisoners along with their families."
European capitals are all keeping a careful eye on the Daesh prisoners held by the SDF after the defeat of the extremists, given many are dual nationals.
Macron also vowed that financial support would be allocated to "respond to the humanitarian needs and the socio-economic stabilisation of civilian populations in Syria."
The SDF were the key ally of the West in defeating Daesh and waged the bulk of the fighting on the ground.
But they fear being abandoned by their patrons now Daesh is beaten, after US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of American forces from Syria.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had in April announced one million euros ($1.1 million) in humanitarian aid for camps housing displaced people, notably Al-Hol which holds thousands of women and children who lived in Daesh-held areas.
France's past contacts with the SDF's Syrian Kurds have angered Turkey, which regards the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The PKK has waged a 35-year insurrection against the Turkish state.
Macron also made clear of the importance to Paris of "the security of Turkey and a de-escalation along the Syrian-Turkish border," the presidency said.