A French court on Friday jailed Briton Robert Dawes for 22 years over cocaine trafficking. Dawes, 46, was accused of being a major drug kingpin in Europe.
He maintained his innocence in his final statement to the court on Friday, but Prosecutor Isabelle Raynaud said Dawes was “far from a small-time fall guy,” bur rather from the “highest ranks of organized crime.”
The head of Britain’s National Crime Agency, Matt Horne, hailed the verdict, and added that “Dawes was prepared to use extreme levels of violence in order to further his reputation and take retribution against those who crossed him.”
He was convicted over one of the most brazen trafficking incidents seen in Europe in recent years, in which 1.3 metric tons of cocaine were smuggled in an Air France plane from Venezuela to Paris in 2013. The drugs were stuffed into 30 unregistered suitcases, having a street value of around €240 million ($275 million).
Dawes was arrested at his luxurious villa in southern Spain in 2015 after Spanish police were able to record him bragging about the cocaine. Several of Dawes’ associates who were responsible for transporting the drugs throughout Europe were arrested in similar operations.
Carmine Russo, Vincenzo Aprea and Marco Panetta of Italy as well as Nathan Wheat of the UK were also convicted as accomplicies and sentenced to 13 years in. Another defendant, Kane Price, was acquitted.
Dawes: ‘It was all a script’
Robert Dawes was extradited to Paris, and sat in jail awaiting trial as his defense team attempted to get the recording dismissed as evidence. At the start of his trial earlier in December, he claimed that his confession recorded by Spanish police was a ploy to stop what he said was heavy-handed surveillance by getting himself arrested.
“That was all a script,” said Dawes. He denied having anything to do with the cocaine, and denied knowing any of the other suspects arrested in connection with it.
“The facts don’t lie in this case, I’ve no connection with these people,” he said of the three Italians and two other Britons also on trial. “I know in my heart that I’m not involved in this crime.”
But police in both Spain and France say they are certain that Dawes “headed up the biggest criminal organization in Britain and Europe devoted to drug trafficking, money laundering and murder.” He is thought to have major connections within the South American cartels as well as the ‘Ndrangheta organized crime syndicate in Italy.
es/msh (AFP, dpa)