Bank robbers linked to Roupa, fugitive Palaiocostas

Police in Athens believe that two men arrested as part of an operation to locate the fugitive urban guerrilla Pola Roupa may also be linked to Greece’s Number One jailbird, Vassilis Palaiocostas.

The suspects are thought to be part of a gang of five that conducted numerous armed robberies at banks and other businesses, and have also been tied to murders and a kidnapping.

They have been identified as 36-year-old G.H., an ethnic Greek from Kazakhstan, and 55-year-old K.K., and were arrested in the Athens suburbs of Ilioupoli and Aghios Dimitrios respectively last Thursday on charges of having carried out some 20 armed robberies at supermarkets and another at a post office in Paleo Faliro, as well as of shooting at police officers during a holdup of a telecoms store in Pefki.

Investigators at one of the supermarket robberies had found forensic evidence against G.H., who had been previously linked to the 2008 abduction of industrialist Giorgos Mylonas in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, as an accomplice of Palaiocostas, a serial bank robber known for making two dramatic helicopter escapes from the capital’s Korydallos Prison.
The discovery of his DNA at the scene prompted police to set up a special task force in November to hunt him down, which turned up evidence suggesting he may have come into contact with people in the close circle of Roupa, one of the key members of urban guerrilla group Revolutionary Struggle, who was arrested last week.

The 36-year-old suspect was taken into custody shorty after Roupa and was armed with a gun and two hand grenades, which he used to threaten the arresting officers. Searches on properties linked to the suspect also turned up numerous weapons, backing the belief of police sources that told Kathimerini G.H. had helped procure arms for Revolutionary Struggle and another violent urban guerrilla group, Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire.

He was also a fugitive after having disappeared while on furlough from a prison in Crete, where he was serving a 13-year sentence for his involvement in the kidnapping of Mylonas. The industrialist was held for around two weeks and released after his family paid ransom of roughly 12 million euros, which is believed to have bankrolled the criminal network run by Palaiocostas and possibly the activities of the two guerrilla groups.

Police, meanwhile, have also uncovered evidence suggesting that K.K. was involved in all of the armed robberies in Athens and is a close accomplice of G.H.. He too has been convicted for two murders, in 1983 and 2004, though remained at large.

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