‘Air Cocaine’ pilots who fled Dominican Republic arrested in France
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Two French pilots who escaped the Dominican Republic to avoid a conviction for alleged cocaine smuggling were arrested at their homes on Monday before being taken to a judge.
Pascal Fauret, 55, and co-pilot Bruno Odos, 56, were among four Frenchmen handed 20-year terms in Santo Domingo in August following their arrest in 2013 for allegedly trying to smuggle 26 suitcases of cocaine out of the Dominican Republic.
The pair fled on October 27, despite a court order to remain in the country pending appeal. They have denied wrongdoing, saying they did not know the private plane that they had been hired to fly was loaded with drugs.
Eric Dupond-Moretti, a lawyer representing Fauret and Odos, criticised how the arrests were handled on Monday.
“We had asked to be summoned, but bad habits prevailed. It’s pathetic,” Dupond-Moretti told French television channel, iTELE.
Fauret’s wife, Sabine, said that she was also surprised by what had happened.
“I didn’t think we were going to have police at the house. My husband isn’t a criminal, he was waiting to be summoned by the judge,” she told Reuters.
Back in the Dominican Republic, the country’s prosecutor general, Francisco Dominguez Brito, announced that he had requested an international arrest warrant for Fauret and Odos.
France will not extradite
“The pilots’ escape is further evidence of their guilt,” he said at a press conference in Santo Domingo. “A person that believes he is innocent does not try to flee justice.”
The pilots were arrested in March 2013 along with two other men, Nicolas Pisapia and Alain Castany, as they were about to take off from the Dominican resort of Punta Cana.
Authorities said they were preparing to leave on a mid-size Dassault Falcon 50 jet with 26 suitcases containing 680 kilograms (1,500 pounds) of cocaine.
All four, who were in custody for 15 months while their case was being heard, say they are innocent. Pisapia and Castany are still in the Dominican Republic.
At their trial, defence lawyers argued there was no proof the men knew the drugs were on the plane.
Four Dominican locals have also been jailed for sentences ranging between five and 10 years in connection with the case.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP, REUTERS)