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Great Train robber Biggs may elude arrest

Ronald Biggs

New extradition treaty might not affect him

August 12, 1997
Web posted at: 4:11 p.m. EDT (2011 GMT)

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (CNN) -- Britain's most famous fugitive, Great Train robber Ronnie Biggs, is unlikely to be arrested anytime soon, despite a new extradition accord to be ratified by Britain and Brazil on Wednesday.

"He won't be arrested immediately even if Britain issues an extradition request on Wednesday," a Brazilian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on Monday. "First we would have to analyze the case before issuing an order for his arrest."

Biggs, now 68, was part of a 16-man gang that launched the biggest heist of its day when the robbers held up a Royal Mail train and fled with 2.6 million pounds, worth about $7 million at the time. The robbery was made into the movie "Great Train Robbery".

Biggs was caught, sentenced to 30 years in prison, but scaled the walls of a London jail and escaped after serving 15 months.

He underwent plastic surgery, lived in Australia for a while, and arrived in Brazil in 1970, where he has been living a crime-free life, publicly flouted the British justice system.

Biggs' book

Biggs was safe from arrest for many years because Brazil and Britain did not have an extradition agreement.

Even after the agreement takes effect, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said, Brazilian authorities would first have to investigate whether the Biggs case might constitute an act of political persecution or violation of human rights, and whether there were valid grounds on which to arrest him.

Finally, the president of Brazil's highest court, the Supreme Federal Tribunal, would have to decide whether or not to issue an order for his arrest, she said.

Biggs has made a living by turning his story into a business, appearing on television shows, promoting his books, and even setting up a web site.

Biggs' web site

His safety was boosted when his son Michael was born, because under Brazilian law Biggs could not be touched as long as he had a dependent. His son, who will turn 23 next month, is now legally independent.

Biggs has hired Brazilian and British lawyers to fight for his freedom in the courts, and believes luck is on his side.

"I have infinite faith that I won't go to jail," Biggs told Reuters during a recent interview at his home overlooking Rio. "I have been lucky until today and I hope I will continue to be lucky. In Brazil, everything is forgiven and forgotten after 20 years."

Correspondent Frida Ghitis and Reuters contributed to this report.

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