Latin America & Caribbean

Argentina police searches prominent fugitive convicts

Police on Argentina election day, 22 Nov 2015 Image copyright AP
Image caption The authorities have offered a $150,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the three men

The security forces in Argentina have launched a major operation to arrest three prominent convicts who escaped from a high security prison on Sunday.

Victor Schillaci and brothers Cristian and Martin Lanatta were serving life in prison for kidnapping and murdering three businessmen in 2008.

They escaped from one of the country's most secure prisons using a fake gun to threaten one of the guards.

The Buenos Aires province governor has sacked the prison system chief.

Maria Florencia Piermarini had been appointed to the post by former Governor Daniel Scioli, who was defeated in November's presidential election.

"There was complicity from the prison system in their escape," said Governor Maria Eugenia Vidal.

An ally of new President Mauricio Macri, Ms Vidal has been in power for less than a month.

The Lanatta brothers and Victor Schillaci began their escape at 02:30 local time on Sunday (05:30 GMT).

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Buenos Aires Governor Vidal (right) is a close ally of President Macri (left)

They produced a fake gun, overwhelmed a prison guard and hijacked a car from the Buenos Aires province penitentiary system.

They left the General Alvear high security prison, some 250 km (155 miles) south-west of Buenos Aires, holding the prison guard as a hostage.

It was all over in 15 minutes: they dumped the car and the hostage nearby and have not been seen since.

More than 100 police and federal agents are taking part in the manhunt.

Ephedrine smuggling

The three men had been convicted for killing three businessmen in a dispute over a scheme to smuggle ephedrine to Mexico.

"Drug trafficking has penetrated Argentine politics," said Ms Vidal.

Earlier this year, Martin Lanatta accused high profile politician Anibal Fernandez of being the mastermind of the 2008 murders.

Mr Fernandez denies any involvement.

He was running against Ms Vidal for governor of Buenos Aires and ended up losing the election.

"I have nothing to hide," said Mr Fernandez, who is close to former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

He said the accusations against him were politically motivated.

Related Topics

More on this story