The special assize court in Paris sentenced ten people on Thursday evening to sentences ranging from five to seventeen years in prison for their participation in international cocaine trafficking, conveyed by sailboats between South America and Oceania. .
After more than twelve hours of deliberation, the heaviest sentence, seventeen years of criminal imprisonment, was pronounced against the French Pascal Coulombel, 65, who appeared free since October 24.
The Advocate General had asked Tuesday twenty years of imprisonment against this former sports teacher and discotheque owner of the Oise who had established himself in Panama, underlining his “central and omnipresent role” in this traffic. His Dominican wife, Yahaira Coulombel, was sentenced to twelve years in prison.
51 million euros customs fine
A sentence of eleven years in prison was imposed on the Portuguese José Nunes Martins, who had “assumed” from the box to be a drug trafficker but reiterated having “nothing to do with this affair”. The other defendants, in particular sailors of various nationalities recruited to convoy drugs, were sentenced to five to ten years’ imprisonment, below the requisitions of the public prosecutor who had asked for seven to twelve years in prison.
With these convictions, six of the seven defendants who appeared free will sleep in prison, with the exception of a 78-year-old Panamanian, given his state of health. An eighth man, who was tried in absentia, is the subject of an arrest warrant.
The court also pronounced against all of the convicts the joint payment of more than 51 million euros in customs fines, ten times less than the sanction claimed by the Advocate General. The court’s motivation was not known Thursday evening.
Two tons transported
According to the prosecution, this vast criminal organization transported some 2 tonnes of cocaine in four convoys, for “a market value of nearly 190 million euros”. The drug, loaded off the Colombian coast aboard sailboats from Panama, was to be transported to Australia, where a kilo of cocaine sells for around 85,000 euros, more than double that in France.
The investigation had started, on the basis of information from customs, with the interception on January 19, 2017 of a sailboat flying the French flag off the Marquesas Islands, in French Polynesia, belonging to Pascal Coulombel.
Some 629 kg of cocaine had been found there, in particular in a false ceiling of the cabin of the sinking boat. Three other drug shipments aboard catamarans sailing in French territorial waters are attributed to this organization with Colombian sponsors. The alleged cartel leader, nicknamed “El Flaco” (the skinny one), is being prosecuted in another part of the case.