Suspected British drug lord goes on trial in Paris

A suspected British drug lord goes on trial on Monday in Paris for allegedly masterminding a plot to flood Europe with cocaine.
Nottingham-born Robert Dawes, 46, denies charges that he ran an operation that smuggled 1.3 tons of cocaine, worth £45 million, to France on a flight from Venezuela in 2013.
Two other Britons, named as Nathan Wheat and Kane Price, are also charged with involvement in trafficking, along with three Italians allegedly linked with the Camorra, the feared Naples-based crime syndicate.
Accused of being one of Europe’s biggest drug smugglers, Dawes was arrested in 2015 at his palatial villa on Spain’s Costa del Sol, nicknamed the “Costa del Crime”.
The arrest followed an international undercover operation initiated by Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA), which exposed a network of corrupt European officials and security flaws with serious implications for terrorism.
Four agents of France’s anti-trafficking agency, OCRTIS, posed as corrupt baggage handlers at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris to intercept 31 suitcases containing cocaine belonging to “ghost’ passengers that arrived on a flight from Venezuela.
They found evidence indicating that Dawes and his British associates had organised the shipment using encrypted phones.
Wheat, allegedly using the alias of Marcus, set up a meeting at the Eiffel Tower with French undercover agents.
Prosecutors said Wheat gave instructions for the cocaine to be delivered in four batches of 300 kilos. The first load was intercepted at the German border and all the suspects were arrested in France in 2013 except for Dawes.
The hunt for the suspected kingpin then began in earnest in a joint operation by the NCA and Spain’s anti-trafficking agency.
His eventual arrest was seen as the NCA’s biggest success since it was created in 2013 by Theresa May, then home secretary.
But a shadow was cast over the case with the arrest last year of François Thierry, the former head of the French agency OC, suspected of complicity in drug smuggling. He has denied the accusations but remains under investigation, although no charges have been brought against him.
Mr Thierry is to appear as a witness in the Dawes case and is expected to face a grilling from defence lawyers over his investigatory methods and wiretaps.
Bugs placed in a Madrid hotel recorded Dawes allegedly boasting to a representative of a Colombian cartel that he could smuggle drugs though most European airports and ports, using a network of corrupt officials, prosecutors said.



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