French gangster escapes prison in a helicopter

Hannah Rogers
July 5, 2018

Career criminal Redoine Faid, who had fled from prison once before, was sprung from the Reau prison near Paris on Sunday by heavily armed accomplices.

The helicopter carrying the armed men landed at a courtyard, freed him from the visiting room and took off, AP reported.

A manhunt is now underway to find one of Redoine Faid, France's most notorious gangsters, after he mounted a helicopter escape from Réau Prison, on the outskirts of Paris.

Faid, 46, has been serving a 25-year sentence for a failed robbery during which a police officer was killed.

Faid's brother was in custody on Monday.

Faid previously launched an audacious jail jailbreak in 2013, using explosives to blast his way out of a prison in northern France. Faid and his accomplices are believed to have ditched the airplane and escaped by vehicle.

In a dramatic style, Faid's associates hijacked a helicopter and made the pilot land it in a prison courtyard that was not protected by anti-aircraft setting.

It was the second time he had escaped from a French prison - the last time he blasted his way out with hidden explosives.

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A police source said the helicopter pilot was a flight instructor waiting for a student when he was seized by Faid's accomplices. He was later released, in shock but with no physical injuries.

After initially fanning out almost 3,000 officers to find Faid, 46, and his helpers, police say 100 specialised agents are now trying to track him down.

She said mobile phones, often used illicitly by convicts, would be jammed in French prisons from October.

Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet told Europe 1 radio that she had sent inspectors to the prison "to see whether the security measures were defective so that we can rectify them".

In the 1990s, he was co-leader of a gang engaged in jewel theft, armed robbery and extortion in the Paris area.

According to excerpts of emails published by the Le Figaro newspaper, regional authorities had warned the prison administration of a "serious threat" of Faid escaping. He briefly took four wardens hostage before being recaptured six weeks later in a cheap hotel room.

One of Faid's most recent prison supervisors has stated he was never in conflict with guards, but that "we must always be wary".

Faid was a fan of Robert De Niro, Michael Mann and Steve McQueen, according to Frederic Ploquin, who met him several times while researching a book about the French underworld.

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