Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Paraguay officials detained 18 police guards and placed them under investigation after an escape Sunday of two Brazilian inmates from a high-security prison.
Paraguay's internal security vice minister said inmates Thiago Ximenes, identified as a criminal band leader, and Reinaldo Araujo, identified as a hitman, escaped without a shot being fired from the Agrupamiento Especializado prison in Asuncion.
"Evidently there was police complicity in the escape of two members of the Fist Commando Capital," Paraguayan President Mario Abdo said Monday, reported 45 Ultima Hora.
He said 18 police officers, including two higher ranking officials, are under investigation for potential complicity.
The first stage of the escape, that involved cutting iron bars, occurred in a prison section where the guard in charge had requested permission to leave for family reasons, but superiors did not replace him. Security cameras in other areas that could have foiled the escape were damaged.
The detentions occur within of a month of a deadly incident in the same jail that sparked replacements of Paraguay's top police officials. In November, a Brazilian leader of the Comando Vermelho bank, Marcelo Pinheiro, was able to get an 18-year old girl inside his cell.
The incident became known after the girl was killed. Authorities said Pinheiro may have killed her to avoid extradition to Brazil, possibly because he has privileges in Paraguay he wouldn't have in Brazil.
Instead of being retained in Paraguay for a murder trial, he was immediately expelled by the Paraguayan government, which had already prepared his extradition.
An investigation by Paraguayan newspaper ABC cited a police source that said Paraguay criminals can pay up to $1,600 to arrange for illegal visiting privileges in high-security prisons.
Jail guards are also involved in selling weapons to inmates, it added. Weapons are sold "in parts" and assembled inside jails, the report said. Police uniforms have also been sold to Brazilian criminals who planned to use them to escape, it added.
The border between Brazil and Paraguay is a point from which drugs and weapons are smuggled into Brazil. They end up in the poorest neighborhoods of Brazil's biggest cities, which are plagued by drug related violence, according to Brazilian authorities. Brazilian police have cracked down on such organizations in recent months.