French Court Set to Rule in Gaydamak Gun-running Trial

Prosecution is demanding that mogul and his partner are sentenced to six years in prison, fined five million euros.

A French court is due to reach its verdict today in the case of the Israeli-Russian-French mogul Arcadi Gaydamak, who is on trial along with 40 French defendants, including ministers, officials and public figures, on charges of illegal gun running in the 1990s.

Gaydamak and his partner, French businessman Pierre Falcone - the two primary suspects - had received the franchise to represent a Slovakian company called ZTS-OSOS in France at the time.

The two are charged with selling, through this company, Russian weapons to Angola's government, which was embroiled in a civil war. The $791 million deal included 420 tanks, 12 helicopters, warships and hundreds of thousands of shells and mines. They are also charged with involvement in smaller arms deals in Africa. Gaydamak is also charged with tax offenses and fraud.

The prosecution is demanding that the two are sentenced to six years in prison and fined five million euros.

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.

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.