Europe

France demands 10-year term for Noriega

Artist's impression of Manuel Noriega in the Paris courtroom
Image caption Witnesses say Manuel Noriega appears frail in court

French prosecutors say they want the maximum 10-year jail sentence for Panama's former dictator Manuel Noriega on charges of laundering drug money.

State prosecutor Michel Maes said in the trial's closing arguments that French authorities are determined "to follow this through to the end".

Noriega was extradited from the US in April after two decades in prison for drug-trafficking.

A French court sentenced him in his absence to 10 years in 1999.

However, France agreed to a new trial if he was extradited.

Noriega denies taking payments from Colombian drug lords in the 1980s and laundering the money in France.

'Seize accounts'

Mr Maes told the court: "We should retain the image of a perfectly structured organisation in the hands of one man, and in the interests of one man, Manuel Noriega.

"This system was conceived to launder drug money for Mr Noriega's profit."

Mr Maes also demanded that all Noriega's money in French bank accounts be seized.

The prosecution alleges that Noriega laundered 15m francs (2.3m euros, $2.8m, £1.9m) from Colombia's Medellin drug cartel in the late 1980s through the now-defunct Bank of Credit and Commerce International.

The money was allegedly used by his wife, Felicidad, and a shell company to buy three luxury apartments in Paris. The properties have since been seized by the French state.

Noriega's lawyers argue that the charges against him are trumped up, calling the trial "a political case" and not a judicial one.

Speaking in his own defence on Tuesday, Noriega dismissed the money-laundering charges as "an imaginary banking scheme".

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