Notorious fugitive caught

Greece’s most wanted fugitive, Vassilis Palaiocostas, believed to have masterminded the kidnapping of a prominent businessman in June, was arrested near Thessaloniki late on Wednesday, police revealed yesterday. The 42-year-old, who had been at large since June 2006 when he escaped from Korydallos Prison in a spectacular helicopter breakout, was tracked down in a house in Souroti, near Thessaloniki airport. A search of the house unearthed a large quantity of heavy weaponry, including an anti-missile grenade launcher, five Kalashnikov assault rifles, five pistols, three homemade bombs and 3,700 rounds of ammunition. Police believe that Palaiocostas staged last June’s kidnapping of Giorgos Mylonas, the former chairman of the Federation of Industries of Northern Greece and chief executive of aluminium company Alumil, with three accomplaces who have also been arrested. In an interview with Kathimerini, Mylonas said Palaiocostas was among his abductors and that he even conversed with him a couple of times during his two weeks in detention. The businessman said that overall he was treated well by his abductors, who are believed to have kept him in a dark storeroom in the house in Souroti. But Mylonas related some moments of terror, including the fugitive’s reaction after a planned handover of the ransom went wrong. «At one point, Palaiocostas burst in, extremely aggravated, and told me, ‘If anything like that happens again, we’ll kill you,’» Mylonas said. Apart from Mylonas’s testimony, police say there is evidence connecting the fugitive to the abduction of the businessman, whose family reportedly provided kidnappers with a ransom of roughly 12 million euros to secure his release. Police said some of this ransom money has been recovered. DNA evidence taken from Mylonas’s car, which was used in the abduction, implicates several suspects, according to police, who were yesterday questioning three suspected accomplices. Tape recordings of telephone calls between the kidnappers and Mylonas’s family also have shed light on the investigation.