A robber turned movie actor has been arrested by police following the seizure of more than a tonne of cocaine from a luxury yacht.
Star Jean-Claude Pautot, 66, appeared in the hit French comedy ‘The Innocent’ last year, playing a gangster after a life of real-life crime.
He had spent decades as a career crook pulling robberies, going on the run, and spending years behind bars before turning to acting.
He was arrested by Spanish police after the Navy intercepted a sailing yacht off the Azores loaded with 740 kilogrammes (1,631 lb) of cocaine.
A second man – a Venezuelan national, who had boarded the vessel in Margarita Island, Venezuela – was also arrested.
Pautot is one of 15 detained during the massive drug bust in France and Spain.
Police believe he is part of a huge organised crime network smuggling vast amounts of cocaine into Spain’s Cadiz and Malaga Provinces and the Paris Metropolitan Area.
The operation – carried out by the Spanish National Police, the Spanish Civil Guard, the French Anti-Narcotics Office (OFAST), and the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation – has now dismantled the criminal organisation, which shipped cocaine to Europe in sailing yachts.
The Spanish National Police said in a statement obtained by Newsflash: “The organisation was based in Marbella and Paris, and the drug was distributed throughout the Spanish provinces of Cadiz and Malaga, as well as the Ile-de-France region – which includes Paris and its metropolitan area.
“The network had two branches: the French branch, which dealt with the distribution of the drug; and the Spanish one, in charge of contacts with the organisations supplying the drug, based in Colombia and Venezuela.
“The operation – part of the ‘Plan Meridional’ – has ended with the arrest of 15 people and the seizure of more than 1,000 kilos [2,204 lb] of cocaine, EUR 797,950 [GBP 702,000] in cash, two sailboats, seven vehicles and three firearms, among other effects.”
The Spanish National Police detailed how the boats would make the long journey from the Caribbean to Europe loaded with cocaine.
Investigations began in the summer of 2021, when the Spanish Civil Guard learned of the arrival of a sailboat in El Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz Province.
The boat was captained by a French citizen believed to be involved in cocaine trafficking.
He had been rescued in the English Channel in 2010 after the sailboat he was piloting solo sank, with indications that he had been transporting cocaine.
Some of those who came on the police’s radar included former members of the Marseille mafia who had settled in Marbella, Malaga Province.
It transpired that one was a notorious mobster and bank robber who had been convicted in France for murdering a police officer during a robbery.
Pautot, 66, turned to acting and art after supposedly giving up on a life of crime.
In ‘The Innocent’, he played a crook caught up in a plot to thwart a woman’s bid to marry a man in prison.
He told France’s Le Parisien in November: “I am a happy man. I have my little dog, I have a life, I paddle, my morning jog.
“I have two children. I didn’t raise the big one, but I take care of the little one.
“To be well, to have health, to remain calm. What is normal for people, I savour it at 66 years old.”