Expatica news

CORRECTED: France seeks 25-year term for suspected British drug kingpin

A prosecutor on Wednesday urged judges to impose a 25-year prison term on a British man accused of importing 1.3 tonnes of cocaine into France hidden in suitcases on an Air France flight from Venezuela.

Robert Dawes, 46, has denied organising the shipment since his arrest in Spain in 2015, despite a Spanish police video which shows him claiming ownership of the drugs.

Under questioning on Tuesday Dawes surprised the court by saying his claims in the video were “just a made-up story” intended to provoke the police into arresting him so that he could prove his innocence.

But advocate general Isabelle Raynaud said she was “dumbfounded” by an explanation she called “completely surrealistic.”

She also rebuked an “unprecedented” attempt by Dawes’s defence team to submit a forged document intended to show that the incriminating Spanish video was inadmissable on legal grounds.

Investigators believe Dawes was at the head of a network which became one of the largest drug traffickers in Europe, with alleged links to South American cartels and the Italian mafia.

Shortly after the cocaine was found in 30 suitcases at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport in 2013, investigators arrested Nathan Wheat and Kane Price, suspected of working for Dawes and who are also on trial.

The prosecutor also sought a 15-year term for Wheat, but did not seek prison for Price, saying his association with the operation was not fully established.

Sentences of eight to 13 years were sought for three Italians also arrested and standing trial.

Raynaud also called on the judges to impose a combined fine of 40 million euros ($45.7 million).

The six men will have a chance to make final statements before the judges at the specially composed non-jury trial give their verdict, expected on Friday.