In the first instance, the two pilots, who have always ensured that they did not know they were carrying cocaine, were sentenced to six years in prison.
The “Air cocaine” case, with its 26 suitcases loaded with 680 kilos of white powder discovered in a jet in Punta Cana (Dominican Republic), returns from this Monday, June 7 to the courts, for the pilots’ appeal trial and four other accused. Did Pascal Fauret and Bruno Odos know they were carrying cocaine? Who organized what? The Aix-en-Provence Assize Court of Appeal, composed for this case only of professional magistrates, will reopen this river and media case until July 9.
During the first trial, in early 2019, the judges estimated that the two pilots had knowingly participated in transatlantic drug trafficking in an organized gang, sentencing them to six years in prison. A blow for Pascal Fauret and Bruno Odos, who hoped for acquittal. They always swore they didn’t know there were 680 kilograms of drugs aboard the Falcon 50 when they were arrested one night in March 2013 on the tarmac in Punta Cana.
“In business aviation, pilots are not assigned the task of monitoring baggage”, hammers their lawyer Me Antoine Vey, interviewed by AFP. “It is not proven that they knew, the doubt must benefit them to a minimum and therefore they should be acquitted 100%”, he says, adding that this story “Rotten life”. Now in his sixties, Pascal Fauret is a property keeper and Bruno Odos employed in a ski slope grooming company: “They survive while waiting for the deadline”.
The long judicial journey of these two former decorated military pilots began with fifteen months of imprisonment in the Dominican Republic, before an incredible flight by sea and air from this Caribbean island where they had been sentenced to twenty years in prison. They also experienced pre-trial detention in France. Also tried on appeal for two trips to Puerto Plata, in the Dominican Republic, then to Quito, in Ecuador, in 2012 and 2013, they will appear free, having quickly left their prison after their first trial, pending this appeal.
Finding the sponsor
Another accused, with a very different profile, should also occupy the debates: the alleged sponsor, Ali Bouchareb, a 50-year-old Stéphanois who had received the heaviest sentence in the first instance, 18 years imprisonment. He is serving in Lyon-Corbas prison another nine-year prison sentence for drug trafficking. “He never said that he had never tampered with in his life, he just said that this file is not him!”, summarizes one of his tips, Me Menya Arab-Tigrine.
Is he the famous “Rayan” that several protagonists of the case present as the organizer of the traffic? For the investigators, no doubt: they want as proof in particular one of the false identities – Rayan Hanouna -, which he used in Spain where he lived clandestinely and where he had been arrested in 2014 unloading 420 kilos of cocaine in from Peru.
The investigation is also based on his identification, supporting photos, by witnesses and another protagonist of the case, Franck Colin, who has not appealed against his sentence to twelve years in prison, but must be heard during this appeal trial. For his part, Ali Bouchareb has always denied the facts: “He disputes being Rayan and being the sponsor of ‘Air cocaine’, as he has always disputed”, insists Me Arab-Tigrine. “There are still a lot of question marks because it is a file which is dense and which has gone a little in all directions”, continues the lawyer.
Acquitted at first instance, Michel Ristic will also appear in Aix-en-Provence. The latter is suspected of being close to Ali Bouchareb, and Franck Colin had assured to have seen him with “Rayan” on the arrival of one of the flights in Saint-Tropez, before retracting. Finally, the two co-managers of the business aviation company which employed pilots Pascal Fauret and Bruno Odos, Fabrice Alcaud and Pierre-Marc Dreyfus, also sentenced to six years in prison in 2019, will be retried.