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Dominican Republic jails four Frenchmen in ‘Air Cocaine’ affair

STR, AFP | French nationals Jean Pascal Fauret (L) and Bruno Odos attend a court audience in Higuey, eastern Dominican Republic, on February 4, 2014.

Four Frenchmen were sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison in the Dominican Republic for drug trafficking following a long-delayed trial known in France as the “Air Cocaine” affair.

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Pilot Pascal Fauret, co-pilot Bruno Odos, passenger Nicolas Pisapia and alleged broker Alain Castany were arrested in March 2013 as they were about to take off from the Caribbean resort of Punta Cana.

Dominican authorities say they were preparing to take off in a mid-size Dassault Falcon 50 jet with 26 suitcases carrying 680 kilograms (1,500 pounds) of cocaine.

After deliberations lasting 10 hours, the court found the men guilty of the "crime of associating to ... possess illegal drugs."

Of the 10 Dominicans charged with complicity in the case, six were acquitted and four others given sentences ranging from five to 10 in prison.

The lawyer for the French pilots, Maria Elena Gratereaux, said she would appeal.

The Frenchmen have always protested their innocence and had argued they did not know the drugs were on the plane.

But Prosecutor Milciades Guzman repeated on Friday that the cocaine had been transported “to the plane via a hole in the security fence, in the pilots’ presence”.

French investigators are also probing the “suspicious behavior” of passengers from a Falcon 50 jet that landed in December 2012 in the Mediterranean resort of Saint-Tropez, with Fauret, Odos and Pisapia on board.

A French customs official is under investigation for allegedly helping two vehicles unload ten suitcases from the aircraft.

Investigators say two identical deliveries took place earlier in 2012, and a third one was scheduled for March 2013, when the Frenchmen were arrested in the Dominican Republic.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
 

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