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'Angolagate' Revived in Paris Court

France's former Interior Minister Charles Pasqua (file photo)
France's former Interior Minister Charles Pasqua (file photo)

France's former interior minister launched an appeal Wednesday over his conviction related to an Angolan arms scandal in the 1990s, known as ‘Angolagate’.

The case goes back to the 1990s. A slew of leading French figures allegedly organized arms sales to the Angolan government during the country’s civil war, despite there being a United Nations arms embargo in place.

The former Interior Minister Charles Pasqua was convicted in 2009 for his role in the deal. He was given a one-year jail sentence and a fine for allegedly accepting illegal payments in return for lobbying for the arms sale - worth just under $800 million.

Pasqua, along with around 20 others who were also convicted, launched an appeal on Wednesday against that verdict.

His lawyer, Leon Lef-Forster, spoke before the hearing started.

He said he can prove Pasqua’s innocence.

He said Pasqua is ready to fight for this because he’s never run from his responsibilities.

The two main figures in the scandal were French arms dealer Pierre Falcone and a Russian-Israeli businessman Arkady Gaydamak. Both were given a six-year jail sentence, a sentence Falcone is appealing but Gaydamak, who has been on the run living in Israel, didn’t appear at court on Wednesday.

Another figure who was at court was Jean-Christophe Mitterand, the son of former French President Francois Mitterand. He was given a suspended prison sentence for accepting $2 million for promoting the interests of Falcone and Gaydamak.

He spoke to reporters, saying that he was only at the trial to see how things were going - he said he would not be questioned.

Angola is one of Africa’s top oil producers. Its 27-year civil war ended in 2002.