“Air Cocaine”: the shadow of the secret services?

The appeal trial of the two Air Cocaine pilots opens today in Aix en Provence. Pascal Fauret and Bruno Odos, suspected of having helped transport 700 kg of cocaine aboard a Falcon 50 between the Dominican Republic and France, were sentenced in the first instance to 6 years in prison.

By Frédéric Crotta

Christophe Naudin : Air Cocaïne : les dessous d'une mystification (editions L'Archipel)
Christophe Naudin : Air Cocaïne : les dessous d’une mystification (editions L’Archipel)

In a book published almost at the same time, Christophe Naudin, the man who managed to exfiltrate the two men from the Dominican Republic, tells what he experienced. He is the one who led the operation. Even if many gray areas remain, we know a little more today. Revelations.

The tone is lively, the story breathless. With many details – without forgetting here and there some points of humor – Christophe Naudin embarks the reader in adventures more than incredible. He reveals almost everything about the mission he has accepted to set up, lead and carry out.
A specialist in false papers, a skilled pilot himself and close to the intelligence community, this former naval aviator is fiercely convinced of the innocence of the two pilots. He who, he writes, “grew up with the credo of recovering the soldier from the enemy” agreed to help them without hesitation.

Code name: “Dinner in Paris”

It was an old acquaintance, Aymeric Chauprade, a naval officer, who contacted him in the summer of 2015 and made the proposal. Since then, the two men have been at loggerheads.
At the time the two pilots, under house arrest in the Dominican Republic, have just been heavily sentenced to 20 years in prison. They are at the end. One of them even evoked the ultimate solution: suicide. Moreover, they are to be retried a few months later and their sentence could become final.
For Aymeric Chauprade, an atypical character, geopolitologist, former European deputy, elected on the list of the National Front, it is now that we must act. Naudin is not opposed to this, but he has only one condition: to obtain from Odos and Fauret an “ok” in principle. A return trip to Santo Domingo over a weekend reassures him that the two friends are willing to flee the hell they have fallen into.

Then began the actual assembly and preparations. In the greatest secrecy of course. Three scenarios are studied but the one of an “extraction” by the sea is retained.

Lobster and Spiny Lobster

The code name of the operation was immediately found: “Dinner in Paris”. For Naudin, it’s “a name that was not chosen by chance because we were counting on being able to meet around a good Parisian table at the end of all this. From this name came all the codes adopted for the operation itself. “It’s almost like watching a parody of OSS 117. Each participant is given a function along with a second “culinary” identity. Christophe Naudin, the mastermind of the operation is called “Chef de partie poisson”, Chauprade “Chef de partie volaille”, a certain Pierre Malinowski, former parliamentary assistant to Chauprade, russophile and close to Marion Maréchal is recognizable by his specialty of “Saucier”.

Others like “Gambas” and “Langoustine” joined the team to rescue the two detained pilots, nicknamed “Lobster” and “Langouste”. In total, about twenty people were requisitioned. Soldiers, pilots, sailors, French policemen, active or retired.

Political commitment

The idea is simple: under the pretext of a sea trip, “Lobster” and “Langouste” will join a sailboat that will wait for them in international waters. On board, Christophe Naudin will pick up the two men and sail to Saint Martin. Once the boat is docked, the pilots, accompanied by Naudin, will reach Fort de France Airport to finally embark for Paris.
According to Naudin, this mission and those who led it were to remain secret for at least 6 months. But even before Odos and Fauret boarded the return flight, the French press already knew about it. According to the expert, Aymeric Chauprade alerted the journalist Louis de Raguenel, one of his privileged contacts at Valeurs Actuelles, out of a desire for publicity and glory. Not only was the secret pact broken, but Chauprade had failed in all his duties. Naudin asked him to stay in the Dominican Republic to continue to put the authorities to sleep and to keep the pilots’ caches “alive”. But the politician took off two days before the end of the mission. Aymeric Chauprade did not wish to answer our questions. But in a statement published Saturday, Aymeric Chauprade (@a_chauprade) / Twitter he wonders and suspects his mission leader: “Did Naudin plan to “blame” the actors that a strong political commitment would inevitably point to as perfect culprits? ”
Paranoia? Lucidity? Chauprade will say no more. And that is a pity.

The hypothesis of a second team

Since the beginning of this affair, a shadow hovers. That of the French secret services. Many questions remain unanswered. In contacting Christophe Naudin, who no longer hides his closeness to the services, was the former deputy on a mission ordered by French intelligence? What are his links with the DGSE? Where did the 100,000 euros spent for the exfiltration and the purchase of sophisticated equipment come from? Did DGSE agents participate in the “Dinner in Paris” operation?
For Christophe Naudin, it seems obvious that not only were the French services aware of the operation, but that they were also covering it, in agreement with the American services.
Moreover, according to our information, a second team was deployed to carry out the same operation. A practice that is quite frequent according to the intelligence specialists interviewed by us. Who led it? Who was it composed of? The mystery is complete. What we do know is that satellite phones, iridiums, had been delivered to the pilots well before their final escapade. Christophe Naudin told us that he had not been informed of this.
And why was the DGSE so interested in these two pilots? They are former soldiers of the Aero Navale. One of them, Bruno Odos, was even qualified for nuclear weapons. Finally: why and how did they get involved in this drug affair?

Back to hell

For Christophe Naudin, the return of the pilots to France marked the beginning of his troubles. Once the media craze was over, he was able to resume a more or less normal professional life. But it was without counting the rage of the Dominican authorities, vexed to have been thus flouted and ridiculed worldwide. Feeling untouchable, the expert started to travel again. It is in Egypt that his life will change. It was there that he was illegally arrested by Interpol agents, and after a few weeks in prison, he was transferred to Santo Domingo, without any respect for the rules of international law. There he was thrown to the local population. Treated as a great criminal, even as the “enemy of the people”.
Christophe Naudin found himself behind bars in a high-security prison some 40 kilometers from Santo Domingo.

Rage and sense of injustice

We were able to see the conditions of his detention during a two-day visit. Promiscuity. Exigent. Violence. Insalubrity. Permanent insecurity. Here the inmates are reduced to the rank of abused animals. Corruption and money do the rest. How could he have survived in this place where the slightest sideways glance at a fellow inmate can cost you your life? To understand this “extreme” detention, the first pages of “Air Cocaine: the underside of a mystification” (published by L’Archipel) are essential.
He that the media courted before all this affair tries to rebuild himself. To heal his wounds less physical than moral. Out of sight. These 18 months of life spent behind bars, abandoned by his country are hard to forget. And this is what characterizes this book: the rage and the feeling of injustice.
Christophe Naudin does not give up. If he had to exfiltrate his friends again, he would do it again without hesitation. But he, the former military man, patriot to the tip of his fingers, finds it hard to accept and even harder to digest the fact that France has let him go.