British kingpin drug smuggler Robert Dawes on trial in Paris | News | DW | 17.12.2018
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British kingpin drug smuggler Robert Dawes on trial in Paris

Englishman Robert Dawes is being tried in France for allegedly bringing in 30 suitcases filled with 1.3 tons of cocaine on an Air France flight from Venezuela in 2013. He is accused of being an international drug lord.

Robert Dawes being arrested in 2015

Robert Dawes being arrested in 2015

The record drugs haul at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport in September 2013 was the start of a combined operation by French, Spanish and British police that led to the arrest of 46-year-old Dawes at his home on the Costa del Sol in Spain in November 2015. He was then extradited to France for trial.

Dawes' trial began at the Cour d'Assises (Assizes Court) in the French capital last week, where he is appearing with two other Britons and three Italians. They face up to 30 years in prison and fines of €7.5 million ($8.4 million) if convicted.

Spanish police have accused Dawes of leading the biggest criminal organization in Europe devoted to drug trafficking, money laundering and murder.

Testifying at the trial last week, Robert Hickinbottom of Britain's National Crime Agency said Dawes was suspected of being involved in the 2002 murder of a teacher in the Netherlands, money-laundering in the United Arab Emirates and Switzerland, and dealings with Colombian drug cartels.

Investigations began in 2007 into Dawes' alleged links to the Italian Mafia and South American cartels. He was also investigated over a series of murders in the Netherlands in 2014 and 2015 linked to the control of cocaine trafficking in a number of European countries.

Read more: Cocaine worth €30 million seized in northern France

Dawes is believed to have shipped cocaine hidden inside commercial shipping containers bringing furniture from China and fruit from South America as well as heroin from Turkey and Afghanistan for delivery to the UK. He also used private boats and cars.

Air France phantom suitcases

But it was the 30 suitcases with fictitious identity labels that passed through Venezuelan airport security scanners on their way to Paris in 2013 that led to Dawes' arrest.

The French interior minister at the time, Manuel Valls, described the case as "the biggest seizure of cocaine ever carried out in the capital."

Read more: Italy seizes 20 tons of hashish hidden in ship fuel tanks

The Venezuelan Interior Ministry later admitted the suitcases had clearly shown the presence of drugs when they went through security scanners. There were 25 arrests as a result, including members of the military and an Air France manager.

Police in Paris intercepted the drugs as they arrived at the Roissy airport and then launched an operation to track and detain those involved in their collection and distribution. One truck was intercepted at the French-German border.

Dawes, who has also been called the "Drug Lord" and "The General," is expected to testify on Tuesday, with a verdict expected later in the week.

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