Key suspects in France-Angola arms traffic trial
Forty-two people went on trial Monday in Paris on a range of charges in what prosecutors say was a web of wrongdoing, including arms trafficking to Angola, money laundering and bribe-taking. Here's a look at a few of the high-profile defendants:
_ PIERRE FALCONE: An Algerian-born French businessman, Falcone is the star of the trial, charged with arms trafficking, influence peddling, money laundering and tax evasion. Falcone, 54, was jailed for a year at the start of the probe, but was later named Angola's envoy to UNESCO and won diplomatic immunity. A longtime resident of Scottsdale, Arizona, who is married to a Bolivian beauty queen, Falcone is now in business in China. He denies wrongdoing.
_ ARKADY GAYDAMAK: Soviet-born Gaydamak, 56, is now based in Israel and is eying the Jerusalem mayor's post. A businessman and politician who owns the Beitar Jerusalem football team, Gaydamak did not show up at Monday's trial. He faces several international warrants issued by France, accused of working with Falcone to traffic arms and pay bribes with undeclared proceeds from dubious deals. He insists he was doing legitimate business and has not violated the law.
_ JEAN-CHRISTOPHE MITTERRAND: The eldest son of former President Francois Mitterrand, 61, is accused of putting Falcone in contact with Angola's government and setting the arms trades in motion. Mitterrand, who became a consultant after serving as his father's Africa adviser, maintains that he was only doing his consulting job and knew nothing about the weapons.
_ JACQUES ATTALI: A longtime fixture in French and European politics, Attali was commissioned by current President Nicolas Sarkozy to prepare an economic revival plan for the country and released it this year. Attali, 61, is accused of using his political connections to try to get tax fraud charges against Falcone and Gaydamak dropped. Attali has written several books and served in the 1990s as president of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development.
_ CHARLES PASQUA: Once France's top cop and a scion of the conservative French establishment, Charles Pasqua was considered a contender for the French presidential post in 2002 before being implicated in this probe. Now 81, Pasqua has been targeted in or linked to numerous corruption probes. In this case, he's accused of taking gifts and campaign funding in exchange for defending Angola's government in the European Parliament.
_ PAUL-LOUP SULITZER: Author of popular thriller novels, Sulitzer is accused of receiving money from Falcone's company for services he never performed. The well-connected 62-year-old's latest book, "The Red King," is a fictionalized version of the affair the French dub "Angolagate."
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