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Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-07-07

A French court has sentenced 76-year-old former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega to seven years in jail for laundering some 2.3 million euros in drug money through French banks during the 1980s.

Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega was sentenced to seven years in jail by a Paris court on Wednesday for money laundering. The verdict, which came after last week’s three-day trial, marked another inglorious chapter of Noriega’s life. 

At 76, and after spending more than two decades in a US federal prison, Wednesday’s ruling could condemn the former strongman to live out his final days in detention, far from his home country where he has asked to be returned.
Last week Noriega’s lawyers unsuccessfully argued that the general had never conspired with Colombian drug traffickers, and that he was in fact the victim of a US-engineered conspiracy.
The ex-leader was extradited to France on April 26 to answer charges of laundering the equivalent of 2.3 million euros from the Medellin drug cartel through French banks in the late 1980s.
A French court in 1999 sentenced Noriega in absentia to 10 years in prison and a fine of some 13.5 million euros, but for years he fought extradition from his prison cell in Miami.
Prosecutors in France said that drug money was used by Noriega's wife and a shell company to buy three luxury apartments in Paris.
From Washington ally to wanted criminal
Noriega’s languid demise in the annals of international criminal justice betrays his once fiery rise and fall from power in Central America.
In the early 1980s, as civil wars between Marxist-inspired guerrillas and US-backed militaries raged across Central America, Manuel Noriega became a trusted Washington ally in the fight against communism, and was allowed to consolidate power in his geographically-strategic country.
But in 1988 a Florida court slapped the strongman with drug trafficking charges, claiming Noriega was helping Colombian drug-traffickers smuggle tons of cocaine into the US. A full-scale 20,000-soldier strong US invasion ousted and detained him in 1989.
Noriega was taken to Florida to be convicted of drug trafficking and racketeering and ordered to serve 30 years behind bars.
Panamanian authorities, who accuse the former leader of killing a political rival and other crimes, want Noriega to be judged in his home country.


Date created : 2010-07-07


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