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01 December 2023

France's 'getaway king' Redoine Faid handed 14-year sentence


A career criminal and self-described "freedom addict" who escaped a French jail in a hijacked helicopter was sentenced to a further 14 years in prison on Thursday.

Redoine Faid, who had multiple convictions for armed robbery, was sprung from the jail in Reau, 50 kilometres (30 miles) southeast of Paris, in 2018.

The 51-year-old, who was arrested after three months on the run, went on trial last month.

Just after midnight on Thursday, the Assize Court in the capital was packed with more than 100 members of the public.

When he arrived in the dock, wearing a smile and a blue sweater, Faid joked with some of his 11 co-defendants, among them his 65-year-old brother Rachid, who he greeted with a kiss.
The 14-year sentence handed down by the judge was lighter than the 22 years that prosecutors had requested.

As his previous sentences for robbery and jailbreak were due to run to 2046, he could now be in prison until 2060.

Rachid Faid, who took a helicopter pilot hostage and forced him to land in front of the visiting rooms of Reau prison, got 10 years.

A third brother, 63-year-old Brahim, who was inside the visiting rooms with Redoine at the time, swore during the seven-week trial that he had not known of the plan.

Prosecutors believed him and called for his acquittal. The court did not, and handed him a one-year suspended prison sentence.

Three of Redoine Faid's nephews, who helped him during his escape and time on the run, were sentenced to two, six and eight years in prison.

He said his plan to escape was built around an "irrational flaw" -- the absence of anti-helicopter nets at his prison.

On July 1, 2018, two men posing as flying school students forced a helicopter instructor at gunpoint to fly them to the jail.

Faid's accomplices used smoke bombs and angle grinders to break through doors and whisk him to the waiting chopper, to the applause of other prisoners.

Faid, nicknamed the "getaway king", chose to remain silent during the investigation, to protest conditions in the prison.

But the shaven-headed gangster, who says he was inspired by movie baddies such as Tony Montana in "Scarface", put on a show during the high-security trial.

Faid, who had escaped from prison once before for six weeks in 2013, said he was aware of "the damage done by that call to freedom".

"It's an addiction that I recognise and that consumes me, and that I cannot cure."
Faid said he was "not trying to trivialise what happened" and that he wanted to ask the helicopter pilot, not present in court, for forgiveness.

At the trial, he waxed lyrical as he recounted the escape, speaking of a "ray of sunshine" on his face, the "feeling of freedom" and "the closed door which opens to infinity".

Prosecutors described Faid as a "crook" who sought to win over people with his humour, warning jury members not to be fooled by him.

Faid had been serving a 25-year term over a botched 2010 heist in which a policewoman was killed, although he claims her death was accidental.