Diplomatic battle as Portugal ‘discovers’ international gang wanted for brutal murders

A diplomatic battle has followed Portugal’s discovery that it has some of the world’s most wanted men in police custody.

The men – two of which have been on the run from authorities in Argentina for 14 years – were caught back in November as they were planning a security van heist in Aveiro, claims Correio da Manhã.

They are thought to be connected to at least five violent robberies in and around Lisbon, and were all carrying what looked like genuine identity papers.

But something made the PJ’s counter-terrorism unit decide to check further. Fingerprints were taken, and last Friday, detectives heard their suspicions were spot on.

Two of the gang – one carrying Guatemalan ID, the other Bulgarian – were none other than Rodolfo ‘El Ruso’ Lohrman and José ‘Potrillo’ Maidana: both wanted in Argentina since 2003.

The men’s crimes include “burying alive the daughter of the former president of Paraguay”, says CM, and killing the son of Argentina’s former minister of health.

According to the men’s rap sheets, they “kidnapped businessmen and murdered tens of people” in Argentina’s area that borders with Brazil and Guatemala.

Spain, Germany, Argentina and Paraguay all have pending cases for which they now want extradition. As CM explains, Aveiro PJ’s ‘discovery’ has opened a diplomatic battle.

Lurid details meantime on the men’s alleged pasts suggest they killed victims even after ransom demands had been paid in full.

The daughter of the former president, for example, Cecília Cubas, 32, was held for 148 days, her family paying the €250,000 ransom, before being buried alive underneath a house in Asunción.

The body of victim Cristian Gómez de Schaerer – the 21-year-old son of Argentina’s health minister Pedro Gómez – has never been found, says CM.

His mother Pompeya is understood to have paid a ransom for her son’s release of €200,000. Público says the figure was more like €250,000.

But after these horrors, the men simply ‘fell off the radar’.

Have they been in Portugal all the time? Unlikely. Says CM they will have been “moving all the time throughout Europe, where they committed further violent crimes”.

Their base however may always have been Lisbon.

Among the group is a Portuguese drug-trafficker, on the run from jail for the last seven years, and a Spaniard, says Público.

Before the men are extradited it is likely they will face charges for their alleged crimes in Portugal.

Público says these took place in Loures, Odivelas and Cascais. In one of the attacks a pregnant woman was battered with a sledge-hammer, adds the paper.

In Buenos Aires, the men’s capture is being greeted with relief. Argentina’s minister of security Patricia Bullrich told local radio Mitre that the country will be asking for extradition:

“We will have to see if Portugal decides they should serve their time for the crimes they have committed there, or whether they will extradite for the more important ones, which is what happened in Argentina”, she said.

“These are very violent dangerous criminals who committed murders and all kinds of kidnaps. We have advised Portugal so that they know just who they have behind bars”.

Cristian Gómez de Shaerer’s mother Pompeya has told Argentina’s Clarín newspaper that she “never gave up hope” that her son’s abductors would be caught.

Of ‘el Ruso’ she said: “This man has done a lot of very bad things. He is responsible for many kidnappings.

“We want to know where Cristian is”, she added. “I hope he is alive, but I know he could be dead”.

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PHOTO: from South America’s Big Bang News, which claims that ‘El Ruso’ masterminded a ‘kidnapping web that operated in several countries’ and has a price on his head of 300,000 pesos (over €400,000).