‘Air Cocaine’ smugglers sentenced after week-long trial


White powder on black reflective surface, closeup

A French court has sentenced seven men to terms of up to 18 years of prison last week. Of them, two former air force pilots were given six-year terms.

Dubbed the ‘Air Cocaine’ case, it began six years ago when ex-fighter pilots Pascal Fauret and Bruno Odos attempted to smuggle drugs out of the Dominican Republic. They were accompanied by two passengers – Alain Castany and Nicolas Pisapia – on board a Falcon 50 intending to fly to Saint-Tropez, in France. The trijet was holding 26 suitcases – allegedly in poor condition – containing a total of 680 kgs of cocaine.

The aircraft belonged to Alain Afflelou, owner of a chain of French opticians. He had made it available for charter, not knowing what was waiting to happen.

After being arrested and detained for 15 months by Dominican police, Fauret and Odos were found guilty and sentenced to 20-year terms in 2015. Then, they escaped house arrest with the help of friends and unknown allies. The two men wanted to appeal to a French judge. They were said to have fled to the French-Dutch island of Saint Martin, and only returned to French mainland later that autumn. They were arrested soon after their arrival.

Since then, others have been implicated in this case. The Guardian reports: “The evidence runs to more than 62,000 documents and more than 100 witnesses are expected to be called during the seven-week trial.”

Ali Bouchareb, considered to be the ringleader, has been sentenced to 18 years imprisonment. While his right-hand man, Frank Colin, got 12 years.

This is one of the biggest drug seizures on an aircraft in recent years. The Farnborough case last year involved five men smuggling £41m worth of cocaine packages labelled with ‘Superman’ logos into the UK. They were jailed for a total of nearly 100 years.