The nation of France is still reeling from the recent terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of more than 100 people in Paris. However, while country officials are still dealing with that, there is another issue in the nation that has grabbed headlines. This issue is known as the “Air Cocaine Affair,” and it is an all out scandal, allegedly involving high-level political figures.
It all started when two French pilots were busted for moving some serious weight in the Dominican Republic. Pilot Pascal Fauret and co-pilot Bruno Odos were busted along with two other French nationals for smuggling 680 kilos of cocaine in 26 suitcases aboard the a Dassault Falcon 50 jet in March 2013, according to the Daily Beast. They were sentenced to 20 years in prison in August. Their lawyers appealed the conviction, claiming that their clients were unaware of the coke on board. As a result, the pilots did not have to report directly to jail, but they were forbidden to leave the Dominican Republic.
The order to stay put didn’t matter. In October, in what the French media refers to as a “meticulously planned escape,” Fauret and Odos escaped on a speedboat manned by 16 people and fled to the the Franco-Dutch island of Saint Martin. They were able to slip away under the auspices of taking a “a little boating trip with former Navy commander and a French politician, funded by “generous donors.” From St. Martin, the duo boarded a plane to France where they were taken into custody.
Adding to the scandal is the involvement of two prominent members of far right French political party the National Front in the escape. Aymeric Chauprade and Pierre Malinowski were both in the Dominican Republic at the time of the escape. Malinowski was reportedly on the boat that carried the pilots away. Chauprade (who resigned from the National Front before he could be expelled) was even more instrumental. The Daily Beast reports:
Chauprade, a European deputy for the National Front, played an even larger role. In an interview with Paris Match, Chauprade described how he helped orchestrate the operation, dubbed “Dinner in the City,” explaining that two teams were involved: one to ferret the pilots out of the area under the “pleasure boat” ruse, and another to help get them to France.
The fugitive pilots remain in French custody. Their co-conspirators remain incarcerated inthe Dominican Republic awaiting appeal. Warrants have been issued in the Dominican Republic for the arrests Chauprade, Malinowski and Christophe Naudin, an aviation security specialist. It does not appear that France has any plans of extraditing the pilots back to the Dominican Republic.