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French pilots convicted of cocaine trafficking flee Dominican Republic to ‘seek justice’

A French pilot who fled the Dominican Republic in what appears to be a well-planned escape by speedboat after being convicted of drug trafficking says that he did so to get his side of the story heard.

Pascal Fauret, 55, and co-pilot Bruno Odos, 56, were among four Frenchmen sentenced in Santo Domingo in August in a case dubbed “Air Cocaine” in France.

But on Tuesday, Fauret and Odos were back with their families in France after travelling by boat from the Dominican Republic to the Franco-Dutch island of Saint Martin, before flying to Martinique and then on to France.

Fauret told a press conference in Paris that he felt the men had no choice but to leave the Dominican Republic, where they were not being held in detention pending a judicial appeal.

“The justice system did not open an investigation, it did not listen to us and we were sentenced to 20 years in jail just because we’re French and not good Christians,” he said.

“I’m sorry, but my first instinct was to return to my country where I could speak before a functional justice system and try to go back to a normal life.”

Their lawyer Jean Reinhart insisted the men had not “fled” the Dominican Republic.

“They are in France not to flee justice but to seek justice,” he said. “They are not escapees, because they were not in prison.”

Mr Reinhart explained that although they were not in jail they had been barred from leaving the Dominican Republic pending the appeal.

Exactly how the pilots managed to leave remains shrouded in mystery.

Local media carried photos of the two men in a speedboat and said they went from that boat to a larger vessel.

Eric Dupond-Moretti, a high-profile lawyer representing the pilots, said he could not give details of their journey because “it was not done alone, there were other people involved”.

But he said the men had left of their own accord, telling the press conference: “It’s no use imagining that a team of spooks was paid by the French state to facilitate this escape. That’s not it at all.”

The foreign ministry said the men had received no help from the French government.

Dominican Republic to seek international warrant for men

The Dominican Republic said it would seek an international warrant for the men’s re-arrest.

Attorney-general Francisco Dominguez Brito said Dominican authorities were also reviewing international protocols in a bid to force the pilots to return and face justice.

“We are in contact with the French authorities, not only to determine how they escaped the country and their accomplices, but also to make them assume their responsibility in (the Dominican Republic), regardless of any other cases that may arise in France,” he said.

In response, French government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said Paris would “apply the letter of the law”.

“We do not extradite French citizens when they are on our territory,” he said.

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 privately hired mid-size Dassault Falcon 50 jet with 26 suitcases containing 680 kilograms of cocaine.

All four, who were in custody for 15 months while their case was being heard, have protested their innocence. Pisapia and Castany are still in the Dominican Republic.

“I want to come out clean from all this, that’s why I’m here to fight until the end,” Mr Pisapia said by telephone. “I want to leave here legally, having proved my innocence.”

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.

Source: AFP/Reuters

Oct 29, 2015

Category: DR News |

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Last updated December 4, 2016 at 1:52 AM
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