Greek Police Arrest Most Wanted Fugitive After 16 Years

Police arrested a convicted bank robber whose 16 years on the run made him Greece's most wanted fugitive, authorities said Thursday.

Nikos Paleokostas, 45, who is also a suspect in a kidnapping for ransom, was arrested Wednesday outside a mountain village 95 miles northwest of Athens, national police chief Lt. Gen. Anastasios Dimoschakis said.

He said Paleokostas failed to stop at a police roadblock, was chased and arrested after crashing his car and suffering light injuries. He had been traveling alone.

Two automatic weapons and a handgun were seized from the car.

"We had a plan to arrest (him). We stuck to that plan and committed resources to it, and it worked out in the best possible way," Dimoschakis said, without giving further details.

Paleokostas was transferred to Athens several hours after his arrest.

He has been convicted in 16 bank robberies and nearly two dozen car thefts and is a suspect in several others. He is also a suspect in the 1995 kidnapping of a Greek businessmen who was released after a ransom payment of a reported $572,500. Altogether, he has been sentenced to 87 years in prison.

He had twice narrowly escaped arrest following shootouts with police in which no one was injured.

Paleokostas escaped from a high-security prison in Athens in 1990, while serving a sentence for armed robbery, during a mass breakout by inmates.

His younger brother, Vassilis Palaiokostas, 40, also staged an audacious escape from the same Athens prison in early June -- using a stolen helicopter that landed in the prison yard. He had been jailed for armed robbery and the 1995 kidnapping.

An Albanian inmate who escaped with the younger Paleokostas brother was recaptured last week.