Pilot Pascal Fauret and co-pilot Bruno Odos were among four Frenchmen handed 20-year terms in Santo Domingo in August in a case dubbed “Air Cocaine” in France.
But it emerged in Tuesday that the pair are now back in France after a James Bond-like escape from the Caribbean island.
“They are in France not to flee justice but to seek justice,” their lawyer Jean Reinhart told AFP.
“They are not escapees, because they were not in prison,” he added, explaining that the pair were at liberty, though not authorised to leave the Dominican Republic, pending a judicial appeal.
The lawyer told Le Parisien on Tuesday that both men were with family in the Lyon area of central France, but he added not necessarily at home.
A source close to the case told the paper that the pilots fled the Dominican Republic in a boat provided by “friends”, from where they travelled to the French island of Saint Martin.
(A photo of the pair heading out of the Dominican Republic. Photo: BFM TV)
From there they flew to the French island of Martinique and then back to France on a normal commercial flight, using their own passports.
Reports say around 15 accomplices, including former soldiers and friends, were involved in the plot that took months to prepare.
They were arrested in March 2013 — along with Nicolas Pisapia, a passenger on the plane they were piloting, and alleged broker Alain Castany — as they were about to take off from the Dominican resort of Punta Cana.
Authorities said they were arrested as they were preparing to leave on a mid-size Dassault Falcon 50 jet with 26 suitcases carrying 680 kilograms (1,500 pounds) of cocaine.
Fauret and Odos “left the territory of a country where justice does not exist”, said Reinhart.
“They are not trying to evade justice,” he insisted, “The first thing they did upon their return was to write to the magistrate” in charge of their case in France.
All four of the men involved have declared their innocence.
Four Dominican locals have also been jailed for 5-10 years in connection with the case.