Thu, Oct 29, 2015 - Page 7 News List

French pilots make escape from Dominican Republic


Two French pilots given 20-year jail sentences in the Dominican Republic for cocaine trafficking slipped out of the country and went home “to clear their names,” one of the men said on Tuesday, but the Caribbean nation said it would seek their rearrest.

Pascal Fauret, 55, and co-pilot Bruno Odos, 56, were among four Frenchmen sentenced in Santo Domingo in August in a case dubbed “Air Cocaine” in France.

However, on Tuesday they were back with their families in France after traveling by boat from the Dominican Republic to the Franco-Dutch island of Saint Martin, before flying to Martinique and then on to France.

Fauret told a press conference in Paris that he felt the men had no choice but to leave the Dominican Republic, where they were not being held in detention pending a judicial appeal.

“The justice system did not open an investigation, it did not listen to us and we were sentenced to 20 years in jail just because we’re French and not good Christians. I’m sorry, but my first instinct was to return to my country where I could speak before a functional justice system and try to go back to a normal life,” Fauret said.

The Dominican Republic said it would seek an international warrant for the men’s rearrest.

Dominican Republic Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito said authorities were also reviewing international protocols in a bid to force the pilots to return to the country and face justice.

The pilots were arrested in March 2013 along with two other men, Nicolas Pisapia and Alain Castany, as they were about to take off from the resort of Punta Cana.

Authorities said they were preparing to leave on a privately hired mid-size Dassault Falcon 50 jet with 26 suitcases containing 680kg of cocaine.

All four, who were in custody for 15 months while their case was being heard, have protested their innocence. Pisapia and Castany are still in the Dominican Republic.

At their trial, defense lawyers argued there was no proof the men knew the drugs were on the plane.

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