French court hands Noriega 7-year prison term
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Last Updated: Wednesday, July 07, 2010, 20:38
Paris: A Paris court on Wednesday convicted former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega of laundering drug money in France in the 1980s and ordered him to spend seven years behind bars, a sentence that comes on top of his two decades already spent in a US prison.

The three-judge panel also ordered the seizure of USD 2.89 million that has long been frozen in Noriega's accounts.

Noriega, who gives his age as 76, was deposed after a 1989 US invasion and went on to serve 20 years in a Florida prison for drug trafficking. He was extradited to France in April to stand trial on accusations related to his assets here.

The prosecution argued that millions of dollars that passed through Noriega's French accounts during the late 1980s were kickbacks from the powerful Medellin cocaine cartel.

His lawyers had pressed for an acquittal, saying the trial was part of a political plot against him and arguing that Noriega's age and poor health mean he would certainly die behind bars if convicted.

Noriega has blood pressure problems and is paralyzed on the left side following a stroke, his lawyers say. There has long been confusion about his true date of birth.

In court, Noriega portrayed himself as a foe of drug traffickers and said the money in his French accounts came from personal and family businesses. He also said some of it was payments from the CIA.

Noriega had long been considered an important CIA asset before he joined forces with drug traffickers and was implicated in the death of a political opponent.


First Published: Wednesday, July 07, 2010, 20:38

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