March 4, 2016 / 8:39 PM / in 2 years

Frenchman arrives in Dominican Republic for 'air cocaine' trial

SANTO DOMINGO (Reuters) - A Frenchman wanted in the Dominican Republic for helping to orchestrate a dramatic speedboat escape of two pilots convicted of cocaine trafficking arrived in the capital early on Friday to face trial in the Caribbean nation.

Christophe Naudin (C) is escorted by police officers as he arrives at the National District Prosecutor's Office in Santo Domingo March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas

Looking haggard and unshaven, Christophe Naudin was escorted by over 50 officers in a motorcade to be arraigned on Saturday over the Oct. 27, 2015, escape of pilots Jean Pascal Fauret and Bruno Odos, who were under loose house arrest at the time.

He was extradited from Egypt after his arrest in Cairo last month.

Naudin, 53, a criminologist specializing in aviation security who had admitted in the media that he helped arrange the escape, was hustled into the public prosecutor’s office in Santo Domingo past a throng of local and foreign media.

The pilots were sentenced to 20 years in prison in August 2015 for possession of 1,500 pounds (700 kilos) of cocaine with intent to traffic it aboard an aircraft seized in the Dominican Republic’s Punta Cana International Airport in March 2013.

They denied the charges and were given some freedom of movement during an appeal against the conviction.

The two fled the Dominican Republic in the well-planned escape and arrived back in France shortly afterwards.

The pilots were rearrested by French authorities on Nov. 2.

Dubbed “air cocaine” by French media, the case has sparked criticism of Dominican Republic’s judiciary, as the judge who granted them looser terms was subsequently charged with taking bribes in a corruption case linked to contract killings.

A French member of the European parliament, Aymeric Chauprade, is also wanted in the Dominican Republic over the case, as is Pierre Malinowski, an assistant of France’s veteran far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen at the parliament.

The two had also told media they helped the pilots escape.

Dominican authorities are expected to charge Naudin with conspiracy and people trafficking, according to justice officials quoted in the local media.

Editing by Dave Graham and Andrew Hay

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