Noriega gets seven more years for money laundering

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The Independent Online

A Paris court convicted the former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega yesterday of laundering drug money in France in the 1980s and sentenced him to seven years behind bars – on top of the two decades he has already spent in a US prison.

The three-judge panel also ordered the seizure of €2.3 million ($2.89 million) that has long been frozen in Noriega's accounts.

The former dictator, who gives his age as 76, was deposed after a US invasion in 1989 and served 20 years in a Florida prison for drug trafficking.

He was extradited to France in April to stand trial on accusations related to his assets there.

The prosecution argued that millions of dollars that passed through Noriega's French accounts during the late 1980s were kickbacks from the powerful Medellin cocaine cartel in Colombia.

His lawyers had pressed for an acquittal, saying the trial was part of a political plot against him and arguing that Noriega would die behind bars, if convicted, because of his age and poor health.

Noriega served out his US sentence in 2007, but he stayed in jail for 32 months during a protracted battle to fight extradition to France.

His defence lawyer, Antonin Levy, said those 32 months should count toward the French sentence, which would mean Noriega could be up for parole within a year.

Video: Noriega sentenced to seven years

Panama has also sought Noriega's extradition, and, if France agrees, he could be sent to the Central American country at any time, Mr Levy said.

Noriega has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison in Panama after he was convicted in absentia of embezzlement, corruption and murdering opponents.