Saudi prince's drug smuggling trial for November

27th July 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 26, 2006 (AFP) - A French court has delayed until November 29 a court case against a Saudi prince, who was due to be tried in his absence from Wednesday on charges of involvement in a cocaine smuggling gang.

PARIS, July 26, 2006 (AFP) - A French court has delayed until November 29 a court case against a Saudi prince, who was due to be tried in his absence from Wednesday on charges of involvement in a cocaine smuggling gang.

The gang is suspected of having used his jet to transport drugs from Colombia to Europe.

Prince Nayef al-Chaalan, who is not in line for the Saudi throne, is accused of having taken part in an operation which landed two tons of cocaine at a airfield about 10 kilometres (six miles) from Paris in 1999.

He is the subject of an international arrest warrant after failing to appear at a first hearing in June for "vital professional reasons."

The investigation leading to the charges against the prince began in June 1999, when 800 kilogrammes (1,800 pounds) of cocaine with a street value of 30 million dollars (EUR 24 million) was seized by police in a raid in a northeastern suburb of Paris.

Police in France and the United States discovered a link back to Saudi Arabia and prosecutors in France claim the drugs, which were to be distributed in Italy and Spain, were smuggled via the Le Bourget airport in May 1999 using Chaalan's plane.

In July 2002, Chaalan was also accused by a US court in Miami and his ex-fiancée was found guilty of criminal conspiracy in 2005.

Nine others from Colombia, France, Germany Sierra Leone and Spain will also face drugs and smuggling-related charges in the trial.

A Spanish art dealer and financier, Jose Maria Clemente, is also to face charges during the trial after being arrested in Spain in December 2002. He is also suspected of money-laundering by Swiss prosecutors.

During a first phase of the prosecution, five people were found guilty by a court in Bobigny, a suburb of Paris.

Didier Dubreucq was found guilty of handling the drugs at the airport and was given a prison sentence of eight and half years. Gustavo Guarin Gonfrier, a French national of Colombian origin and a chemical engineer, was sentenced to four and half years in prison.

Three others who were found guilty of helping to stock the drug got lighter punishments.

The five convicted men were given a collective fine of EUR 12.3 million, which was to be paid to the French customs service.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French News

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