PARIS (AP) – Two French pilots facing 20 years in a Dominican Republic prison for cocaine trafficking made a daring escape, sneaking home across the Atlantic.
The escape from judicial supervision by pilots Pascal Jean Fauret and Bruno Odos, confirmed by their lawyer and a French official, now puts them in unusual legal limbo.
The two had insisted on their innocence since their arrest in 2013. They were barred from leaving the Dominican Republic pending an appeal of this year's conviction.
Their lawyer Jean Reinhart said on Europe-1 radio Tuesday that the two are now in France and at the "disposition" of French justice in hopes of clearing their names.
He didn't give details about how they escaped, but the circumstances reported in French media sound cinematic.
BFM television reported that they left on a purported local tourist cruise, then transferred to a larger boat with the help of a French politician, former naval officers and former intelligence agents — "friends" of the pilots from their service in the French Navy.
The two were then taken to the French Antilles, where they boarded a commercial flight for Paris, BFM reported. Their lawyer said they traveled under their real names.
An official with the French Foreign Ministry said the French government had nothing to do with their escape from justice in the Dominican Republic. The official was not authorized to be publicly named according to ministry policy.
The pilots were among eight people convicted for involvement in a 700-kilogram (1,500-pound) shipment of cocaine in 2013. The pilots said they didn't know the plane was carrying 26 suitcases of cocaine. The arrests came after a lengthy investigation into a drug-trafficking ring.
"It is not true justice," Reinhart said. "When you have an order that is illegal, you have to not respect it." He said the pilots are now with their families, suffering from respiratory and dental problems but "happy to be in their country."