WASHINGTON — The U.S. extradited former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega to France on Monday, clearing the way for him to stand trial there on money laundering charges.
The former strongman, who was being held in a federal prison in Miami, was on an Air France flight to Paris, according to a Department of Justice source.
Yves Leberquier, one of Noriega's lawyers, confirmed Noriega was headed to France.
"When he arrives he will be presented to the prosecutor and notified of the arrest warrant, and he will confirm his opposition" to the warrant, Leberquier said.
After that, at some point today, Noriega will be presented to a Paris judge who will determine whether he should stay in custody pending further action. Leberquier said Noriega's lawyers will push for that hearing to be open "so that the defense can be totally transparent."
Earlier, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton signed a so-called surrender warrant for Noriega after a federal judge in Miami lifted a stay blocking the extradition last month, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.
Noriega was ousted as Panama's leader and put on trial following a 1989 U.S. invasion that drove him from power. He was convicted of drug racketeering and related charges in 1992. His sentence ended in 2007, but France requested Noriega's extradition shortly before his U.S. drug trafficking sentence ended Sept. 9, 2007.
The French claim Noriega laundered some $3 million in drug proceeds by purchasing luxury apartments in Paris. Noriega was convicted in absentia, but France agreed to give him a new trial if he was extradited.