Millionaire Gaydamak Sentenced to 6 Years in Jail


gaydamakRussian-Israeli businessman Arkadi Gaydamak was given a six-year prison sentence in absentia today by a Paris court, after being charged with $790 million worth of illegal arms trafficking to the Angolan government in the post-Cold War era.Gaydamak was indicted for arms-dealing and money-laundering.

A total of 42 politicians, businessmen and prominent French figures were brought to trial during the past year over the scandal, which first erupted in 2000 after seven years of illicit trafficking.

French arms dealer Pierre Falcone, Gaydamak’s business partner, was also given a six-year sentence.

Jean-Cristophe Mitterand, son of the late French president Francois Mitterand, was given a suspended two-year sentence and a hefty fine. Former French interior minister Charles Pasque was fined €100,000 and given a one-year jail sentence.

The trafficking deal, commonly known as “Angola-gate,” supplied military equipment to Angolan President José Eduardo de Santos during his country’s civil war, which was brought to an end in 2002 after causing 500,000 casualties, displacing millions and spawning a humanitarian disaster.

Santos and his communist militiamen fought against the US-backed Angolan unity movement, UNITA, and defeated them using weapons, warships, tanks and other arms supplied by the trafficking ring.

Gaydamak and Falcone were charged with forging connections with politicians in the war-torn, oil-rich African republic in the early 1990s and going on to commit bribery, tax evasion, fraud and embezzlement.

It is rumored that the ring had agreed to the weapons deals in exchange for Santos’s permission to drill for oil in the area.

The Angola-gate trial began in Paris last November 11, the day of Israeli local elections, in which Gaydamak ran for mayor of Yerushalayim.

Gaydamak was indicted in October 2008 by the Tel Aviv District Court for laundering NIS 650 million and for fraud, in a scandal also involving Bank Hapoalim. He had left Israel for Russia several months previously, leaving behind a large sum to guarantee that he would return if charged.

Although Gaydamak holds French citizenship, he was not present at today’s Paris court session.

It was unclear whether Gaydamak, who has protested his innocence since the beginning, will leave Russia to serve his prison sentence, as France and Russia do not have an extradition agreement.

 {JPost/Yair Israel}