A bargaining chip, Cyprus style

In December 2009, just one year after his death, the corpse of former Cypriot president, Tassos Papadopoulos, was dug up from under a slab of marble and stolen from its grave. For three months now, authorities have been searching in vain and coming up with politically-charged theories of "whodunit" — to no avail. Then, earlier ...

STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images
STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images
STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

In December 2009, just one year after his death, the corpse of former Cypriot president, Tassos Papadopoulos, was dug up from under a slab of marble and stolen from its grave. For three months now, authorities have been searching in vain and coming up with politically-charged theories of "whodunit" -- to no avail.

In December 2009, just one year after his death, the corpse of former Cypriot president, Tassos Papadopoulos, was dug up from under a slab of marble and stolen from its grave. For three months now, authorities have been searching in vain and coming up with politically-charged theories of "whodunit" — to no avail.

Then, earlier this week, an anonymous informer tipped-off the police as to the location of the body and laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of none other than Antonis Kitas, a.k.a. "Al Capone" — an imprisoned criminal mastermind currently serving two life sentences for multiple murders. His motive? Authorities believe he wanted to use the corpse as collateral to ensure his release from prison.

If all this turns out to be true, I’m curious as to why "Al Capone" thought this was a good idea and, moreover, how he thought he could get away with it. Then again, he does seem pretty used to getting his way:

According to former inmates, Kitas enjoys a lifestyle of comparative luxury behind bars, financed by his criminal empire, which he continues to control.

Kitas escaped from custody, briefly, two years ago, giving his guards the slip while being treated for a minor illness at a private Nicosia clinic.

During his six-month stay in the clinic, despite the presence of prison guards, Kitas was frequently joined for the night by his Chinese wife, and had access to a laptop computer and several mobile phones.

A prison guard said Kitas was never handcuffed during his stay in the clinic, and warders were told not to complain about the lax security. "As ever," a retired prison official said: "Al Capone was a law unto himself."

Kayvan Farzaneh is an editorial researcher at Foreign Policy.

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