Hot-on-the-heels of news of a jailbreak in Caxias (Lisbon), involving two Chileans and one Portuguese, national media claims that Chilean mafias operating in Portugal are prepared to pay up to €500,000 to see their countrymen sprung from prisons up and down the country.
Jornal de Notícias has broken the news, suggesting Saturday night’s escape was a well-orchestrated plan that simply made use of the fact that Portuguese jails are undermanned by guards, and further hampered by faulty CCTV cameras around their perimeters.
The men who escaped are believed to be members of the gangs targeting luxury properties in Portugal (click here). They were jailed at different points over 2015 and 2016 and were last seen at around 7pm on Saturday.
Between then and 1am on Sunday they appear to have sawn through the bars of their cell, cut through an exterior fence and escaped into the darkness “without leaving a trace”, says Correio da Manhã.
CM explains that the rambling prison has seven watchtowers, but only three were active. The men’s break used a path between two “deactivated” towers, and with the added obstacles of dense vegetation, darkness and “damaged CCTV cameras”, their path remains a mystery.
As soon as prison authorities were aware of the break, they sent staff to the nearby train station, says CM – with no results.
The conclusion is that the group “had a well-worked out escape plan that included accomplices on the other side”.
JN’s understanding though is that the money offered to help spring inmates “presupposes the creation of conditions so that the Chileans on the run can return to their home country”.
Right now, there are around 25 Chileans in Caxias serving terms of various lengths for breakins on luxury properties.
They are all believed to be members of the same gang that arrived in Europe some years ago, but which only began operating in Portugal in earnest last year.
The gang is thought to be responsible for VIP burglaries throughout the Iberian peninsula, including one that netted around €500,000 worth of jewellery and valuables from the Madrid home of Portuguese footballer Luís Figo.
Despite being well aware of the groups, Spanish police have yet to trace the men responsible for Figo’s breakin, or recover any of the stolen goods.
Back in Portugal, Júlio Rebelo of the Independent syndicate of prison guards has told CM that staff shortages in prisons are a “reality throughout the country”.
Guards’ unions have long been calling for more resources, particularly more guards on duty, but “up until now, there has not been the reinforcement requested”.
Mid-morning today, RTP3 announced that one of the Chileans has been recaptured in Spain, while a second was captured by Spanish Guarda Civil but allowed to go free as there was no room for him in the holding centre for foreigners. The men were apparently discovered at Barajas Airport in Madrid.
A tongue-in-cheek commentary on the online news story asks if the “guard now has to return the €500,000?”.
PHOTO: Caxias prison establishment, Oeiras, on the outskirts of Lisbon