Drug Smuggling Saudi Prince Gets 10 Years

By Vic Walter

May 9, 2007 7:13pm

A French court sentenced a Saudi prince to 10 years in prison for abusing his role in a large-scale cocaine smuggling operation. But the prince isn’t likely to see the inside of a cell anytime soon. Saudi Prince Nayef bin Sultan bin Fawwaz al-Shaalan, believed to be living in Saudi Arabia, did not appear at today’s hearing, or the trial which preceded it, and was sentenced in absentia by the court. It also fined him $100 million for his role in the plot to smuggle two tons of cocaine from Colombia to an airport outside Paris in 1999. Nine other defendants were also convicted in absentia for their part in the operation. The prince, who is the grandson of Saudi Arabia’s founding monarch Abdulaziz and the son-in-law to the Saudi deputy defense minister, was found guilty of using his diplomatic status and a 727 jet belonging to the Saudi royal family to transport the cocaine. The United States has also indicted al-Shaalan with conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine but does not have a policy of trying cases in absentia.  In 2005, a U.S. court found two other members of the operation guilty and sentenced them each to 24 years in prison and to pay $25,000 in fines. Former Drug Enforcement Administration official Tom Raffanello, who oversaw the U.S. investigation of Prince Nayef al-Shaalan, applauded the sentence of the French court. "I think it is a great thing. I wish more countries would try criminals in absentia, when it’s obvious they have avoided prosecution." The prince is said to be living in Saudi Arabia, which does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.  It also does not have one with France. "Because of that we have to catch a break in order to catch him," said Raffanello. Prince Nayef al-Shaalan has denied the smuggling charges and claims he has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Saudi government.

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