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Sarkozy outraged over link to ‘Air Cocaine’ investigation

Matthieu Alexandre, AFP | Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy (pictured right) in Paris on November 3, 2015

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy accused French magistrates on Tuesday of violating legal principles by tracking his phone usage in connection with their investigation of a transatlantic drug smuggling operation.

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The comments from Sarkozy, tipped to run again for president in 2017, added a bizarre political dimension to a probe that has dominated headlines since two French airline pilots convicted of cocaine smuggling in the Dominican Republic escaped to France in mysterious circumstances last week.

In an interview with the newspaper Le Parisien, Sarkozy said his lawyers were demanding to know why the judiciary had examined his phone records when the only link was that he had flown with the airline at the centre of the probe.

“What I want to know is what could justify an investigating magistrate taking such measures solely because I used the same airline,” said Sarkozy.

“What do they think I did - fly to Punta Cana with 700 kg of cocaine? All this would be just laughable if it wasn’t about a violation of legal principles that all French people support.”

Government involvement?

He said such phone tracking could not have been authorised without the knowledge of President Francois Hollande’s Socialist government.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls later denied the allegation, saying magistrates had not informed the government that they had examined Sarkozy’s phone records.

The two pilots, who escaped to France after what French media described as a commando-style escape by boat, had been arrested at Punta Cana airport in the Dominican Republic in March 2013.

A trial found they had been involved in smuggling cocaine on small private jets between the Dominican Republic and the upmarket French Riviera resort of Saint Tropez, and they were sentenced in August to 20 years’ jail. 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 when they were arrested. Both strongly denied the offences and were free to circulate in the Dominican Republic pending appeals.

France has denied any state involvement in the pilots’ escape, who were arrested before dawn on Monday and taken in for questioning.

Dominican authorities have said they intend to have an international arrest warrant issued for the men.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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