- The Washington Times - Monday, February 23, 2009


Robbers escape prison - twice

ATHENS | For the second time in their lives, two robbers escaped from a high-security Greek prison on Sunday by scaling a rope ladder to a hovering helicopter, authorities said. The escape came amid a gunbattle with guards.

Vassilis Paleokostas, 42, and Alket Rizaj, 34, were picked up by a helicopter that flew over the courtyard of Athens’ Korydallos prison on Sunday afternoon. The inmates climbed a ladder thrown to them by a female passenger, the Ministry of Justice said.

Guards on the ground opened fire, and the woman fired back with an automatic rifle, authorities said. No injuries were reported.

Paleokostas and Rizaj escaped from the same prison in the same manner only three years ago.


Highway robbery nets big cash haul

MOSCOW | Police in central Russia were searching Sunday for several people accused of stealing more than $1 million in cash in a highway robbery - one of the country’s biggest armed robberies in years.

Two bank employees told authorities that assailants with automatic rifles blocked their car Saturday on a highway in Tula province south of Moscow and stole about 43 million rubles ($1.2 million) in cash at gunpoint, police said.

The victims said two of the seven attackers had posed as traffic police, provincial police spokesman Sergei Yelinsky told the state-run Vesti-24 television.

Police said the money from First Processing Bank was purportedly being taken to Moscow from the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported.


Suspect arrested in refugee’s death

WARSAW | Polish police have arrested a man suspected of killing a refugee from Chechnya who was fatally shot in Austria last month after filing a criminal complaint against the president of the Russian region, officials said Sunday.

A 31-year-old man identified only as Turpal Ali J. was arrested Thursday in a hotel near Warsaw, police spokesman Mariusz Sokolowski said. The man is a Russian citizen of Chechen origin, Mr. Sokolowski said.

Mr. Sokolowski said the arrest was carried out by an anti-terrorist squad, because the man was thought to be armed and determined to flee “at any price.”

Austrian Interior Ministry spokesman Rudolf Gollia confirmed the arrest, calling the joint investigation with Polish authorities a success. He said Austria has asked for the man’s extradition.


Government rejects U.S. Senate request

BERN | The Swiss government said Sunday that it will not attend a U.S. Senate hearing on tax havens - an apparent protest against a U.S. lawsuit aimed at forcing banking giant UBS AG to hand over data on tens of thousands of American customers.

Switzerland declined an invitation to the March 4 hearing by the permanent subcommittee on investigations, Finance Ministry spokesman Roland Meier said.

The Internal Revenue Service is seeking to force UBS to turn over records for an estimated 52,000 U.S. customers who the agency says violated American tax laws by concealing Swiss accounts worth at least $14.8 billion.

The IRS lawsuit filed in Miami came only hours after UBS agreed Wednesday to pay $780 million and disclose up to 300 UBS account holders suspected of tax fraud, in a deal with the U.S. Justice Department.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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