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Angola arms traffickers convicted

Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, the son of late French President Francois Mitterrand, arrives at a Paris court
Jean-Christophe Mitterrand was Africa adviser in the 1990s

The son of ex-French President Francois Mitterrand and an ex-government minister have been convicted for their roles in illegal arms sales to Angola.

Jean-Christophe Mitterrand was given a two-year suspended sentence, and ex-Interior Minister Charles Pasqua was jailed for one year by the Paris court.

They were convicted of accepting bribes to facilitate arms deals to Angola in 1993-98, in breach of French law.

Two key figures were sentenced to six years each in their absence.

Prosecutors accused Israeli-Russian billionaire Arkady Gaydamak and French magnate Pierre Falcone of being the key figures in the arms trafficking, worth $790m (£485m).

Gaydamak and Falcone were accused of buying tanks, helicopters and artillery pieces and then selling them to Angola during its civil war, through a French-based firm and its subsidiary in Eastern Europe.

Falcone was arrested and imprisoned as soon as the sentence was passed. He plans to appeal.

Gaydamak is living in Russia, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Mitterrand, an Africa adviser to his father in the Elysee Palace, was also ordered to pay 375,000 euros (£340,000) for receiving commissions linked to the arms deals.

He was acquitted of a separate charge of complicity in arms trafficking.

Pasqua was fined 100,000 euros and sentenced to a year in jail, with two more years suspended.

'Angola-gate'

In total, 42 people were on trial in Paris.

The scandal was dubbed "Angola-gate" by the French press as details of murky deals involving politicians, businessmen, public figures and weapons were revealed.

It also strained ties between France and Angola at a time when France has been looking to boost its trade with Angola, one of Africa's largest oil producers.

Angola sent lawyers to try to stop the trial, citing reasons of Angolan national security.

Up to 300,000 people died during a 27-year civil war between Angola's socialist government, led by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, and the US-backed Unita rebels. The fighting ended in 2002.



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