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42 may face trial in France in arms sales

March 29, 2007|From the Associated Press

PARIS — French prosecutors have requested that 42 people, including the son of late French President Francois Mitterrand, stand trial for suspected roles in illegal arms sales to Angola during the African nation's civil war, judicial officials said Wednesday.

A magistrate will decide whether to proceed with a trial. The group of suspects includes Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, who served as counselor on African affairs from 1986 to 1992 under his father, and former Interior Minister Charles Pasqua, the officials said.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.

Preliminary charges of influence trafficking and misappropriating company assets have been filed against both men. Mitterrand also is being investigated for suspected complicity in illicit arms trafficking.

The focus of the investigation is on two other men still being sought, French businessman Pierre Falcone and Arkady Gaydamak, one of Israel's most prominent and controversial businessmen.

Prosecutors suspect them of selling heavy weaponry to Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos during Angola's 27-year civil war.

Prosecutors allege that the arms sales, carried out from 1993 to 2000 without clearance from the French government, totaled nearly $791 million.

Angola's civil war ended in 2002. It sent almost half a million people fleeing into neighboring countries and displaced close to 4 million internally.

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