Noriega asks Sarkozy for pardon to avoid extradition
Panamanian former strongman Manuel Noriega on Saturday asked for a pardon from French President Nicolas Sarkozy in order to avoid being extradited to France on charges of money laundering.London - Panamanian former strongman Manuel Noriega on Saturday asked for a pardon from French President Nicolas Sarkozy in order to avoid being extradited to France on charges of money laundering.
"He's already served his time in America. He served more than 10 years for similar offences," his London-based lawyer Giovanni di Stefano told AFP.
Noriega, 75, last September completed a 17-year US prison term on drug charges but has remained in US custody while appealing his extradition to France.
The former army general held sway in Panama from 1984 until he surrendered on 3 January 1990 to US troops who had invaded the country three weeks earlier.
A French court sentenced Noriega to 10 years in prison in 1999 in absentia on various charges, but France wants a new trial on allegations he deposited USD 3.15 million (EUR 2.14 million) in cocaine trafficking profits in French bank accounts in the 1980s.
"The French authorities knew where general Noriega was in 1999 when they tried him in absentia. They could have sought a temporary extradition," said Di Stefano, who also defended Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic.
"They didn't do that of course because if general Noriega had been tried properly, the four French banks that helped launder the money would have been in (a big) scandal."
"And do we need to be reminded that in 1982 French banks were lax, that they were helping many dictators?"
A US Cold War ally and one-time CIA informant whose involvement with drug trafficking eventually became an embarrassment for Washington, Noriega was then flown on a military plane to Miami, where he was tried on charges of drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering.