Convicted 'Air Cocaine' French pilots flee Dominican Republic

  • World
  • Tuesday, 03 Nov 2015

Pascal Fauret (R), one of the two French pilots who had been in the Dominican Republic awaiting a court appeal of their conviction for drug trafficking and now back in France, and his lawyers Jean Reinhart (C) and Eric Dupond-Moretti (L) attend a news conference at his lawyer's offices in Paris, France, October 27, 2015. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

PARIS/SANTO DOMINGO (Reuters) - A French pilot who fled the Dominican Republic in what appeared to be a well-planned escape by speedboat after being convicted of drug trafficking said on Tuesday that he did so to get his story heard.

Pascal Fauret and Bruno Odos were sentenced to 20 years in prison for possession of cocaine with intent to traffic. They were arrested on the tarmac at Dominican Republic's Punta Cana airport in 2013.

They deny the charges and had been free to move around under judicial supervision while awaiting an appeal in what has been dubbed the "Air Cocaine" case by French media.

The Attorney General of the Dominican Republic, Francisco Dominguez, said on Tuesday the Justice Ministry would review international protocols and work through diplomatic channels to seek the pilot's extradition from France.

In a press conference Dominguez said he had already requested an international arrest warrant for the pilots.

"Right now we´re in contact with French authorities, not only to determine how they fled the country and their accomplices, but also in order for them to assume their responsibility in the country," he said.

BFM TV carried photos of the two men in a speedboat and said they went from that boat to a larger vessel, which sailed to the nearby French-governed part of the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, about 730 km (450 miles) from Santo Domingo, the capital of Dominican Republic.

They arrived back in France on Saturday. Le Figaro newspaper said they were "extracted" from the country by a team of people.

The Foreign Ministry said the French government was not involved in helping the men flee.

Odos and Fauret were convicted of smuggling 1,500 pounds (700 kilos) of cocaine seized on board an executive jet at the Punta Cana International Airport in March 2013.

Fauret and his lawyers would not be drawn on the nature of the escape, but the pilot told reporters he was in no way a fugitive from justice.

"From the moment when justice does not conduct an inquiry, does not listen to us ... I am sorry but my instinct is to return to my country where I can tell my story to the courts," he said.

Two other Frenchmen who were also convicted in connection with the same case are still in the Dominican Republic.

(This version of the story corrects byline to Jorge Pineda, not Pinon)

(Reporting by Pauline Mevel in Paris and Jorge Pineda in Santo Domingo. Additional reporting by Chine Labbé and Simon Carraud; Writing by Andrew Callus; Editing by Ingrid Melander, Alison Williams, Grant McCool)

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