Fugitive catch ‘averted big raid’

The capture of serial robber Vassilis Palaiocostas last week averted a «spectacular» raid that the 42-year-old is alleged to have been planning to take place over the next few months, Thessaloniki’s police chief Dimitrios Papadopoulos said yesterday as officers found a huge weapons arsenal at a second hideout linked to the notorious criminal. Palaiocostas and his gang had been planning a major hit on a bank or cash delivery vehicle in the next few months, Papadopoulos said, echoing the words of the robber himself who yesterday found himself behind bars again for the first time in two years after testifying before an investigating magistrate. The 42-year-old robber was remanded in custody after defending himself on charges of kidnapping prominent businessman Giorgos Mylonas, forming a criminal gang and possessing illegal weapons and explosives. A raid yesterday on a second hideout linked to Palaiocostas – located in Peraia, near Thessaloniki – uncovered four sub-machine guns, two pistols, two hand grenades, 1,910 rounds of ammunition, firearm silencers, gas masks and 2.9 million euros in cash. The cash is believed to be part of the 12 million euros in ransom Palaiocostas is reported to have been paid by Mylonas’s family to secure the businessman’s release. A similarly large cache of weapons was discovered last week at another suspected hideout, near Thessaloniki airport, where Palaiocostas and his gang are believed to have detained Mylonas for two weeks in June. During a brief exchange with reporters outside the courthouses in Thessaloniki yesterday, Palaiocostas attributed his capture to the fact that he had not chosen his accomplices well. As regards the judiciary that is to rule on his various alleged misdeeds, he described it as «entirely vengeful» in its stance toward him. Seven other suspected accomplices of Palaiocostas are to face an investigating magistrate today.