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Photo: Ofer Amram
Gaydamak indicted in France for arms trafficking
Russian-Israeli billionaire to stand trial in France for allegedly selling heavy weaponry to Angolan president during country's 27-year civil war. Prosecutors claim that the arms sales totaled nearly $791 million
PARIS – French prosecutors have decided to indict Russian-Israeli business mogul Arcadi Gaydamak for illegal arms trafficking to Angola and various other corruption charges.

 

Prosecutors suspect Gaydamak and French businessman Pierre Falcone of selling heavy weaponry to Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos
during Angola's 27-year civil war. Prosecutors allege that the arms sales, carried out from 1993 to 2000 without clearance from the French government, totaled nearly $791 million.

 

Gaydamak, along with 41 other suspects are set to stand trial for suspected roles in illegal arms sales to Angola during the war. If he is convicted, the Israeli billionaire may face a long jail sentence.

 

According to the indictment, the weaponry sales included tanks, helicopters, six warships, land mines and large amounts of ammunition.

 

The group targeted by prosecutors includes Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, the son of late French President Francois Mitterrand, who served as counselor on African affairs from 1986-92 under his father, and former Interior Minister Charles Pasqua.

 

Preliminary charges of influence trafficking and misappropriating company assets have been filed against both men. Mitterrand is also being investigated for suspected complicity in illicit arms trafficking.

 

'Indictment constitutes political persecution'

Gaydamak and Falcone are today considered very close to the Angolan regime, and Falcone has even been appointed the country's ambassador to UNESCO.

 

Gaydamak's attorney, William Goldnadel, told Yedioth Ahronoth Wednesday that the indictment against his client constitutes political persecution.

 

Goldnadel claimed that the French authorities had no jurisdiction on the matter. "In order for the arms sales to be considered illegal, the weapons should have been transferred through France. This did not happen in this case," he started.

 

"The (arms sale) contract has enabled putting an end to one of the bloodiest civil wars in Africa's history. The legitimate government emerged triumphant, while those who lost were recognized as terrorists by the UN," he added.

 

Asked whether Gaydamak would show up in court, Goldnadel said, "My client has always claimed that the prosecutor in the case has acted unfairly towards him. He does not make the same claim against the court."

 

AP contributed to the report

 

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