Saudi prince tried in France on cocaine charges

27th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 27, 2007 (AFP) - A Saudi prince goes on trial in his absence Wednesday accused of using his diplomatic immunity to smuggle two tonnes of cocaine into France.

PARIS, March 27, 2007 (AFP) - A Saudi prince goes on trial in his absence Wednesday accused of using his diplomatic immunity to smuggle two tonnes of cocaine into France.

Prince Nayef Bin Fawaz Al-Shaalan is one of 10 people facing charges relating to a shipment that allegedly arrived on his private Boeing 727 at a Paris airport eight years ago.

None of the accused, who include three Colombian drug-traffickers already convicted in the affair in the United States, will be present in the courtroom in the Paris suburb of Bobigny.

The hearing is expected to last less than a day, with a verdict scheduled for a future date.

Prince Nayef, a grandson of Saudi Arabia's founding monarch Abdulaziz, is alleged to have made contacts with Colombia's Medellin cartel via a woman whom he met while studying at the University of Miami in the early 1980s.

According to the prosecution, in May 1999 he arranged for the cocaine to be packed in briefcases and flown with him to Le Bourget airport outside Paris where it was picked up by aides. As he had diplomatic status, customs officers did not inspect the baggage.

A few days later French police acting on a tip-off found a large quantity of cocaine at a house in the Paris suburb of Noisy-le-Sec and began their investigation.

In 2005 a Miami court handed down several convictions in the affair, using evidence supplied by the three Columbians who had entered a plea-bargain with the prosecution. The same evidence forms the basis of the French case.

Prince Nayef's lawyer Jacques Verges is expected to argue that his client is the victim of a conspiracy hatched in the US.

"The court is being asked to convict a man who has never been seen or interviewed here, and who is accused on the basis of statements by men who the French justice system has not seen or interviewed either," said Verges, who specialises in high-profile briefs.

Le Monde newspaper reported Tuesday that the affair is being watched closely by French diplomats, who fear it could have repercussions on relations with Saudi Arabia.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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