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France/Angolagate trial

Angolagate accused found guilty, ex-minister jailed

Article published on the 2009-10-27 Latest update 2009-10-27 19:33 TU

Jean-Christophe Mitterrand (L), the son of France's former president Francois Mitterrand and a former advisor on African affairs, arrives at a Paris court for the reading of the verdict in the "Angolagate" trial on 27 October, 2009(Photo: Reuters)

Jean-Christophe Mitterrand (L), the son of France's former president Francois Mitterrand and a former advisor on African affairs, arrives at a Paris court for the reading of the verdict in the "Angolagate" trial on 27 October, 2009
(Photo: Reuters)

A French court has found the two principal accused in the so-called "Angolagate" case guilty of trafficking arms to Angola during the 1990s and jailed former minister Charles Pasqua.

Russian-born Israeli businessman Arkadi Gaydamak and Frenchman Pierre Falcone were convicted for their involvement in the shipment of over 530 millions of euros-worth of weapons. They have both been sentenced to six years in prison.

They were found guilty of selling arms to Angola between 1993 and 1998 - when the country was in the middle of a civil war - without receiving authorisation from the French state. The two men are to appeal the verdicts, according to their lawyers.

Former Gaullist Interior Minister Charles Pasqua was sentenced to three years in jail, two of which were suspended. The 82-year-old senator has also been fined 100,000 euros for “peddling influence”. He is also set to appeal.

The son of former French President François Mitterrand, Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, received a two-year suspended sentence and was fined 375,000 euros for receiving millions of euros of "consultant fees" on the sale of the weapons.

"I feel innocent," Mitterrand told RFI after leaving court. "I’m free now from accusations of arms dealing so that’s the most important thing for me."

Reaction: Jean-Christophe Mitterrand

27/10/2009 by Antonio Oliveira e Silva

The ex-prefect Jean-Charles Marchiani was sentenced to three years in prison, with 21 months suspended.

Jacques Attali, an adviser to Francois Mitterrand who went on to head the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, was cleared, as was the magistrate Georges Fenech.

The arms sales began during Francois Mitterrand's presidency and continued under Jacques Chirac until 1998. The arsenal included 420 tanks, 150,000 shells, 170,000 anti-personnel mines, 12 helicopters and six warships. They were used by President Eduardo Dos Santos to battle against Unita rebels.

The trial involved 42 politicians, businessmen and members of the Paris elite. Gaydamak was accused of using contacts in eastern Europe to send weapons to Luanda.

Falcone, who holds French, Canadian and Angolan citizenship, was named Angola’s ambassador to the United Nations’ Paris-based cultural organisation Unesco in 2003. He claimed diplomatic immunity in the case.

Angola had pressed for the case to be abandoned and observers said a harsh verdict could damage France’s relationship with Angola and its hopes to develop major oil contracts.

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