Expatica news

Verdict looms for Briton accused of huge cocaine traffic

A Briton accused of heading a key European drug trafficking network will learn his fate Friday, after a two-week trial over allegations he imported 1.3 tonnes of cocaine into Paris.

Robert Dawes, 46, has denied organising the 2013 shipment on an Air France flight from Venezuela ever since police arrested him at his luxury villa on the Spanish Costa del Sol in 2015.

But Spanish police secured a video taken at a Madrid hotel in which they say he claims ownership of the drugs. They extradited him to France shortly after his arrest.

The state prosecutor is seeking a 25-year prison term for aggravated drug trafficking.

“Far from a small-time fall guy, today we are judging men in the highest ranks of organised crime who supplied European networks,” prosecutor Isabelle Raynaud told the court.

Dawes had hoped to get the video dismissed on legal grounds, before prosecutors discovered his defence team had submitted a forged Spanish document trying to prove the recording was illegal.

He then surprised the court — and evidently his lawyers — 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.

He has denied knowing the other defendants on trial: two Britons and three Italians.

They were arrested after undercover officers tricked them into trying to transport some of the cocaine to Italy shortly after its arrival at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport in September 2013.

– Stuffed in suitcases –

Dawes, from Sutton-in-Ashfield outside Nottingham, central England, has never been convicted of drug trafficking.

But police believe he became one of the largest drug importers to Europe, with alleged links to the Italian mafia and South American cartels.

At the time of his arrest, Spanish police said Dawes “headed up the biggest criminal organisation in Britain and Europe devoted to drug trafficking, money laundering and murder”.

He is also accused of buying large amounts of drugs from Italy’s secretive ‘Ndrangheta mafia, which is thought to run much of Europe’s cocaine trade from Calabria.

His alleged empire stretched from Portugal, France and Belgium to Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Venezuela and Mexico.

But Dawes argued that he and his family had been successful with a variety of businesses in Spain, including furniture and window manufacturing, management consulting and property investments.

The cocaine found on the Air France flight from Caracas was stuffed in 30 unregistered suitcases, and had a street value of some 240 million euros ($275 million).

The discovery caused a stir in Venezuela where the interior minister admitted the suitcases had gone through security scanners that had clearly showed the presence of drugs.

Venezuelan police arrested 25 people, including members of the military and an Air France manager.