PARIS, October 27 (RIA Novosti) - A Paris court has sentenced in absentia Arkady Gaidamak, an Israeli businessman of Soviet origin, to six years in prison for illegal arms deliveries to Angola, tax evasion and corruption.
His partner, French entrepreneur Pierre Falcone, was given six years and was taken into custody immediately. In 2003, Falcone was appointed Angola's representative to UNESCO, but in a case so serious, the court disregarded his partial diplomatic immunity. The trial began in October 2008.
According to investigators, during a civil war in Angola in the 1990s, the ruling regime in the African country planned to buy armaments in France but was denied. Then Angolan authorities asked Falcone to organize arms supplies.
Falcone and Gaidamak were found guilty of organizing arms deliveries from Eastern Europe with a total worth of $790 million. The supplies included 150,000 artillery shells, 12 helicopters, six warships, 420 tanks and 170,000 antipersonnel mines.
According to France Press, Gaidamak and Falcone did not deny supplying arms but insisted they were legal as armaments reached Angola bypassing France. The two men's lawyers cited French Defense Minister Herve Morin's letter of last summer saying "the trade did not require permission."
Gaidamak has never attended a court session in the case that the French press calls "Angolagate." In all, 42 people stood trial, including former French interior minister Charles Pasqua and Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, the son of late French president Francois Mitterrand.
Pasqua was sentenced to three years in prison with a two-year suspension, and Mitterrand received a two-year suspended sentence. Mitterrand and Pasqua were also fined $555,000 and $150,000 respectively.