“Air Cocaine”: court acquits two pilots involved in drug smuggling case


Initially sentenced to six years in prison, two French pilots caught in a case of drug smuggling colloquially known as the “Air Cocaine” case were acquitted in appeal.

On March 19, 2013, Pascal Fauret and Bruno Odos were about to fly a single passenger from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, to Saint Tropez, on the French Riviera, on a Dassault Falcon 50 registered F-GXMC belonging to the charter airline SN-THS. But shortly before takeoff, the local police searched the Dassault Falcon 50 and found 26 suitcases containing 680 kilograms of cocaine.

They were condemned to 20 years in prison by a Dominican court but appealed against the decision. As they were waiting for the final decision of the court, they managed to flee the country in October 2015 aboard a boat, sailing to the French overseas territory of Saint Martin.

But the French court of Aix-en-Provence opened what became known as the “Air Cocaine” case in France. The investigation even involved the former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, as receipts in his name were found during a police raid in the headquarters of SN-THS. On April 5, 2019, the two pilots were found guilty of attempting to import cocaine in an organized gang by the court of Aix-en-Provence. They were sentenced to six years in prison. Seven other defendants in the case received sentences of up to 18 years in prison.

The two men have always claimed they were not aware of the content of the luggage and again appealed against the court decision. The trial attorney, however, defended that the pilots had a duty to ask questions, especially given the amount of luggage for a single passenger.

On July 8, 2021, the Aix-en-Provence court confirmed the sentences for the other defendants but dismissed the charges against Fauret and Odos. According to Le Monde, another key figure in the case found guilty of being the intermediary between the airline and the drug trafficker told the justice that the pilots were “scammed.”

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