Prison warden arrested over ‘copter escape

Police at Korydallos prison after the daring escape
Greek officials have arrested a prison warden and suspended eight guards two days after the dramatic helicopter escape of two inmates.

The justice minister is also cracking down on mobile phone use by prisoners, saying Sunday’s escape could have happened only with inside help. The director of the maximum-security Korydallos Prison and two of his colleagues — the security secretary and the head of inspection and control — have already resigned over the incident. Vassilis Paleokostas, 42, and Alket Riza, 34, escaped in a helicopter that two people hijacked from Athens International Airport. They climbed up rope ladders dangled from the helicopter to the roof of a prison building, the Justice Ministry said. Watch more about the dramatic escape » The helicopter and its pilot — who was gagged — were later found north of Athens, a state-run media report said. Early Tuesday, officials arrested the pilot and the Korydallos prison warden, the Justice Ministry said, without providing details. The escapees and their accomplices are still at large. The prison guards suspended Tuesday include two head guards, the Justice Ministry said. Officials suspended them while investigating their disciplinary responsibility in regard to the escape, the ministry said.

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Two escape Greek prison by helicopter

Justice Minister Nicholas Dendia also said he has asked prosecutors to open all files of prisoners and workers in the wing of the prison where the escape happened. “The government believes that the escape could not have succeeded without inside participation,” Dendia said in a written statement.

Officials have enacted special legislation requiring identification for anyone buying prepaid cards for mobile phones and installed an electronic tracking device for use of mobile phones in prisons, he said. The escape was the second by helicopter from the prison for Paleokostas, who was convicted for abducting a businessman and escaped the first time in June 2006. He was recaptured several months later and returned to the prison.