A French court on Tuesday sentenced Russian-born Israeli mogul Arcadi Gaydamak, who is also a French citizen, to six years in prison and a five million euro fine for his role in illegal arms deals in the 1990s.
Gaydamak was being tried in the affair alongside another 40 suspects, including ministers, government clerks and other well-known public figures in France.
The tycoon and his partner, Pierre Falcone, were the central suspects in the case. According to the conviction, the two won the rights to represent in France the Slovak company OSOS-ZTS. Through this company, the businessman sold Russian weapons to the Angolan government - at the time when a civil war was raging there.
The deal was worth some $791 million dollars, and included 420 tanks, 12 helicopters, a warship and hundreds of thousands of shells and mines.
The two are also charged with involvement in smaller arms deals in Africa. Gaydamak is also charged with tax offenses and fraud.
Jurists believe the verdict will affect Gaydamak's decision whether to return to Israel, which he left 10 months ago for Moscow. If he is sentenced to prison he is not likely to return to Israel because Israel and France have signed an extradition treaty. Russia has no extradition agreement with France.
Israel did not extradite Gaydamak in the past, despite the international arrest warrant France issued for him, because at the time the charges against him were not cause for extradition. A few years ago, however, Israel changed the law and today illegal gun running is considered a criminal offense in Israel as well.
The court also jailed former interior minister Charles Pasqua and handed a suspended sentence to the son of late President Francois Mitterrand for involvement in arms trafficking to Angola.
The court sentenced Pasqua to a year in prison for the case that involved a web of alleged corruption and gun-running to Angola's president during a civil war in the 1990s.
Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, African affairs adviser to his father when he was president, received a 2-year suspended sentence and was fined euro375,000 ($560,000) for receiving commissions linked to the arms trafficking.
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