- Authorities tracked George Wright's travel patterns to Portugal, a source says
- They matched his fingerprint from a U.S. prison with one in a Portuguese database
- He'd escaped from jail in 1970, then allegedly helped hijack a plane in 1972
- This plot was said to be carried out by 5 members of the Black Liberation Army
U.S. authorities were able to locate in Portugal a fugitive accused of hijacking a plane in the name of black liberation by tracking his travel patterns, a law enforcement source said.
George Wright, 68, had been on the run for four decades until Monday, when a manhunt spanning three continents finally caught up with him in the resort town of Sintra, near Lisbon in Portugal, where he had been living quietly.
Authorities matched a fingerprint in a Portuguese national identification database with one that they had on file for Wright from his time in prison, according to two U.S. law enforcement officials. Then, they set up a delicate surveillance operation to make sure they had the man who had eluded them for so long, the officials added.
Wright escaped from a New Jersey jail in 1970, where he was serving 15 to 30 years for murder.
Then, on July 31, 1972, Wright and four other members of the Black Liberation Army allegedly went to the Detroit airport and hijacked Delta Flight 841 for Miami. Wright was then dressed as a priest and carried a handgun in a hollowed-out Bible.
Once on the ground, the hijackers demanded that FBI agents dressed only in bathing suits deliver $1 million ransom to the plane. They wanted to be sure the agents were not carrying guns. The money was duly delivered by the scantily clad agents.
Wright fled to Algeria and faded from sight. It's not clear how he ended up in Portugal.
He is fighting extradition, a U.S. federal agent said, and his next court appearance in Portugal is in about two weeks.
It could take several months before Wright is extradited back to the United States to serve out the remainder of his prison term for murder, a lawyer familiar with Portuguese criminal law told CNN on Wednesday.
The Portuguese lawyer, who did not want to be identified, said that while Portugal has strong extradition agreements with European Union countries, extraditing a suspect to the United States could be more complex. Wright can appeal the extradition request on several grounds, thus potentially delaying the process.