Argentine authorities have allegedly uncovered a plan by Colombian drug lord "Mi Sangre" to escape from prison, as the former paramilitary is running out of options to block his imminent extradition to the United States.
Colombia drug trafficker Henry de Jesús López Londoño, alias "Mi Sangre," was transferred to isolation in a maximum security facility after Argentine authorities thwarted a supposed plan to escape Ezeiza prison in Buenos Aires, Télam reported.
The plot came to light on September 2, when Mi Sangre's lawyer María Gabriela Ricagno attempted to enter the Ezeiza facility with a detailed map of the prison and surrounding town, including police facilities and possible escape routes, prison officials told Télam.
The map found on Mi Sangre's lawyer
A subsequent search of Mi Sangre's cell turned up prohibited items that included a cell phone, a modem, SIM cards and about 100 compact discs. The "high-risk" prisoner had been allowed a laptop, but was not supposed to be able to connect to the internet. Review of the disks revealed video footage of the prison's airspace, leading investigators to speculate that Mi Sangre planned to be picked up by a commando unit, perhaps arriving by helicopter.
Since the escape plan was uncovered, at least two judges have opened investigations into the possible irregularities committed by the prison service. One judge has accused prison staff of not inspecting Mi Sangre's cell for several months even though it should be searched every five days, a judicial source told Télam.
The prison service has relieved the prison's director, Héctor Retamozo, of his duties, along with two officials that were thought to have facilitated the entrance of prohibited items into Mi Sangre's cell.
Jacqueline Arias Malatesta, a lawyer who had represented Mi Sangre during his extradition process, told reporters "there had always been rumors of a prison escape," and that prison staff "were monitoring him closely."
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Extradition
Mi Sangre was arrested in Buenos Aires in October 2012. Nearly four years later, Federal Judge Sebastián Ramos approved his extradition to the United States. The same judge requested Mi Sangre's transfer to a new detention unit.
InSight Crime Analysis
Mi Sangre has fiercely resisted extradition to the United States from Argentina using all manner of legal maneuvers, including claims he is being political persecuted. At present, the Supreme Court of Justice is reviewing an appeal of Ramo's ruling filed by Mi Sangre's defense team. If the court rejects his appeal, the Argentine government will have the final say on the Colombian's extradition.
If it is true the crime boss planned to escape, it may be a sign that Mi Sangre feels he has finally exhausted legal means of blocking a trial before a US court. Being able to organize and fund an escape would also demonstrate the amount of power Mi Sangre managed to maintain, within prison walls and beyond.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Mi Sangre
The foiled prison break also draws attention to Argentina's reputation as a safe haven for major criminals. The country's sky-high domestic drug consumption provides a lucrative market for criminal expats from around the region.