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A Kidnapping Scandal’s Florence Cassez release seen as ‘victory’ for Mexicans

A Kidnapping Scandal: The Florence Cassez Affair dropped on Netflix on Thursday, August 25.

The five-part true crime documentary follows the case of French woman Florence Cassez, who became a central suspect in a kidnapping scandal in Mexico.

Cassez who moved to Mexico to be with her boyfriend in 2005 found herself being imprisoned for 60 years for kidnapping just a few months later.

Based on the book Una Novela Criminal by Jorge Volpi, the highly-anticipated Netflix true crime documentary opens up one of the most controversial cases in Mexican legal history to a wider audience.

Here's what you need to know about Florence Cassez and where she is now.

Who is Florence Cassez and why was she arrested?

French woman Florence Cassez took a trip to Mexico in 2003 to visit her brother and his Mexican wife. While there, she met Israel Vallarta, whom she began a relationship with.

Though the pair shared a "difficult relationship" and briefly broke up, Cassez moved to the south of Mexico City to be with Vallarta in 2005.

Just a few months later, in December 2005, Cassez and Vallarta were arrested while driving along a highway.

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Instead of being held at the police station, Cassez was taken back to her boyfriend's ranch where the Mexican FBI had invited TV reporters and cameramen to capture a fake raid and arrest in which they rescued three people being held in the ranch.

The couple were arrested publicly and accused of running a prominent Mexican kidnapping gang, Los Zodiacos (The Zodiacs).

According to The Guardian, the raid had been set up "by the government as proof that it was winning the battle against organised crime," though authorities claimed they staged the fake rescue upon the media's request.

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Evidence against Cassez was based on four witnesses – three of them being kidnap victims and the fourth person a part of the kidnapping group.

The first two were a mother and her 11-year-old son who first said they didn't recognise Cassez’s voice, before changing their testimony and claiming she had tortured them.

The third person was a man who claims to this day that the couple were the ones abusing him.

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A final witness first claimed that Vallarta and Cassez were the leaders of The Zodiacs, but later denied what he had said.

Despite the inconsistencies in witness statements, Cassez wasn't exonerated and she was also "denied consular assistance for more than a day after being arrested," according to the BBC.

She was sent to prison until her court case, which took place three years later in April 2008.

Cassez was sentenced to 96 years in prison and found guilty of organised crime, illegal deprivation of three people's liberty and possession of firearms used exclusively by the army.

One year later her sentence was reduced to 60 years.

Where is Florence Cassez now?

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Florence Cassez has always denied all charges. In 2010, her lawyers appealed to the Mexican Supreme Court but her conviction was upheld.

In January 2013, nearly eight years after her arrest, her release petition was finally accepted and Cassez was free to fly home to France.

Upon her release, she was greeted by then-president Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace where she told press: "My release is a great victory for Mexicans.”

Meanwhile, her ex-boyfriend, Vallarta, who admitted to being part of the kidnapping gang is still in prison now. He confirmed that Cassez had nothing to do with the kidnappings and didn't know about it.

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