PARIS (AFP) — A Paris appeals court on Tuesday confirmed a Saudi prince's conviction for involvement in a cocaine smuggling gang and added a seven-million-euro (9.7-million-dollar) fine to his 10-year jail sentence.
Prince Nayef al-Shaalan was tried in absentia in the original trial last year and also failed to show up at the appeal court, which revalidated a warrant for his arrest.
The prince, who is not in line for the Saudi throne, was one of 10 people handed jail terms of four to 10 years in connection with an operation which landed two tonnes of cocaine at an airfield outside Paris in 1999.
Prince Nayef was convicted of illegally importing drugs, of complicity in the transport, detention and provision of drugs and of criminal conspiracy.
He was accused of providing a jet to transport the drugs from Colombia and using his diplomatic immunity as cover.
A grandson of Saudi Arabia's founding monarch Abdulaziz, the prince has denied any involvement in the drug-trafficking ring.
His lawyers were not immediately available for comment after Thursday's appeal court ruling.
The investigation leading to the prince's conviction began in June 1999, when 800 kilos of cocaine with a street value of 30 million dollars was seized by police in a raid near Paris.
He was indicted on the basis of testimony from three Colombian former drug barons -- Oscar Eduardo Campuzano Zapata, Juan Gabriel Usuga Norena and Carlos Alfonso Ramon Zapata -- as part of a plea-bargain in a separate drugs trial in the United States.
The Colombians, also convicted in absentia last year, were respectively handed four-, nine- and 10-year jail sentences.
But the appeals court increased those sentences so now all three face 10 years in jail.
The Colombians and Prince Nayef were ordered by the court last year to jointly pay a total fine of 80 million euros to the French customs service.
On Tuesday the court ordered the Colombians to pay a supplementary fine of two million euros each.
A Spanish art dealer and financier was handed a five-year sentence last year for taking part in a conspiracy with the aim of importing drugs.
Five other defendants were also given 10 years on the same charges as the prince in the 2007 hearing.
December 16, 2008
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