Written by Staff Writer
10 Jan, 2016 | 7:54 am
Police recaptured one of Argentina’s most wanted murderers, Cristian Lanatta, convicted of drug-related killings, in a chase through flooded farmland on Saturday, as part of a 13-day manhunt that raised questions over the political connections of the country’s narco gangs.
The Argentine government has withdrawn its initial statement indicating all three fugitives had been apprehended. Victor Schillaci and Martin Lanatta, Cristian’s brother, have not been brought in by the police.
Hundreds of security agents, including police commandos and sharpshooters, hunted down the man in the grains province of Santa Fe, north of the capital Buenos Aires.
President Mauricio Macri congratulated the security forces and promised to fight the drug gangs that use Argentina as a transit point for smuggling South American drugs to Europe and the Americas. On his twitter account, he said there’a “lot more work.”
His Security Minister, Patricia Bullrich, celebrated the capture while exiting the ministry building.
“We have a success in the fight against narcotrafficking. We are very happy and the president (Mauricio Macri) is very proud,” she told local reporters.
Victor Schillaci and brothers Martin and Cristian Lanatta had been on the run since escaping from a maximum security jail where they were serving life sentences on Dec. 27.
Local police in the town of Cayasta, 570 km (354 miles) north of the capital, were tipped off about their whereabouts after the stolen vehicle the men were using got bogged down on a muddy track, hours after they rolled a different pick-up truck.
Martin Lanatta was nabbed mid-morning.
Local TV channels broadcast a photograph purportedly showing a shaven-headed Martin Lanatta with a black eye and facial cuts in what appeared to be a concrete cell or holding area. Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the image.
“The person, as a result of an accident he had in the vehicle he was travelling in, has a bruise on his face, and is being attended to by the institution. No, there was no resistance at all,” Santa Fe police chief, Rafael Grau, said about Lanatta.
The trio were convicted over the 2008 killing of three businessmen in the pharmaceutical industry allegedly linked to an ephedrine trafficking gang in a high-profile case dubbed “The triple murder”. Ephedrine is used for the production of methamphetamine.
Their daring escape came two weeks after Macri took office. It raised suspicions of outside help and a blame game erupted between Macri and officials in the government of former president, Cristina Fernandez.
In August, two months before the presidential election, Martin Lanatta alleged Fernandez’s cabinet chief, Anibal Fernandez, was involved in the ephedrine trade and ordered the triple murder.
Anibal Fernandez has rigourously denied the accusation and prosecutors have not investigated the claim. The then-ruling party said the allegation was designed to hurt its presidential candidates and derail Anibal Fernandez’s bid to become governor of Buenos Aires province.
The manhunt intensified on Thursday, when TV footage showed commandos snaking through swathes of corn fields and searching outhouses as federal and provincial security forces closed the dragnet on the fugitives.
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