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Europe
Five in court over Greek jailbreak
Four guards and a helicopter pilot charged after two criminals fly out of prison.
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2009 17:22 GMT

 Bank robber Vassilis Paleokostas, left, made a similar escape from jail three years ago [EPA]

Four prison guards and a helicopter pilot have appeared in a Greek court charged with failing to prevent two of the country's most notorious criminals from escaping out of a maximum security prison in Athens, the capital.

The justice ministry has suspended eight prison guards over the jailbreak, in which bank robber Vassilis Paleokostas and convicted murderer Alket Rizai were flown out of the jail by helicopter - for the second time in three years.

The two prisoners, who are still on the run, climbed a rope ladder thrown to them from a helicopter flying low over the Korydallos prison on Sunday.

Authorities believe staff at the prison may have been bribed to help Paleokostas and Rizai escape.

Paleokostas, in his forties, was charged last year with kidnapping George Mylonas, a prominent industrialist, and is believed to have millions of euros in ransom money stashed away.

Nikos Dendias, Greece's justice minister, ordered a probe into the banks accounts of all guards in the section of the prison where the two convicts were held.

"The government believes that the operation could not have succeeded without participation from within," he said on Monday.

Previous escape

The pilot, who was found bound and gagged after the escape, has said he was abducted by an armed couple and forced into the operation.

The escape came just days before Paleokostas and Rizai were due to stand trial for a similar breakout in 2006, when a hijacked helicopter landed in the jail's central courtyard.

Guards failed to avert the incident, believing the aircraft's arrival was part of a visit by prison officials.

Paleokostas was serving a 25-year sentence for kidnapping and bank robbery and awaiting trial at the time of the escape.

Rizai, an Albanian in his thirties, was serving a life term for murder, and has since also been charged over two contract killings while on the run from the June 2006 escape.

Security is being tightened around Paleokostas' brother Nikos, who masterminded the 2006 escape and is currently in prison.

 

Source:
Agencies
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