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France court convicts high-profile defendants in Angola arms trade case

[JURIST] A French court convicted several high-profile defendants Tuesday for their roles in illegal arms sales to Angola during the 1990s, known as Angolagate [Global Witness report, PDF]. Among those convicted were former interior minister and current senator Charles Pasqua [official profile, in French], who was found guilty [Le Monde report, in French] of illegal lobbying, and Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, son of former French president Francois Mitterrand, who was found guilty [Times report] of accepting bribes. Pasqua was sentenced to a year in prison and a two-year suspended sentence and assessed a 100,000 euro fine while Mitterrand received a two-year suspended sentence and was fined 375,000 euros. The court's harshest punishment went to French businessman Pierre Falcone and Russian-Israeli businessman Arcadi Gaydamak [BBC profile], who were each sentenced to six years in prison [AFP report] for arms trafficking and other offenses. Gaydamak was sentenced in absentia and has eluded French authorities. Only six of the 42 defendants were acquitted, but most of those convicted, including Mitterrand, Pasqua, and Falcone, said they plan to appeal.

The complicated trial began [JURIST report] last year. The Angolagate affair involved large-scale arms sales to the Angolan government during the civil war between government forces led by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos [BBC profile] and the UNITA [official website, in Portuguese] anti-communist movement, led by the late Jonas Savimbi. The Angolan civil war was largely a proxy war between Cuban communist-supported dos Santos government and the US-backed UNITA rebels. The Angolan government was supplied with arms, including rifles, land mines, grenades, and tanks.

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