Page last updated at 06:48 GMT, Thursday, 21 January 2010

Jailbreak costs PNG prisons minister his job

By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney


Papua New Guinea's Correctional Services Minister has been sacked following a brazen jailbreak.

Some of the country's most notorious criminals, including three on death row, absconded from the Bomana Maximum Security Unit last week.

The escape, including that of the country's most wanted man, occurred with the help of an armed woman.

There have been a series of breakouts recently, and Prime Minister Michael Somare admits the system is in crisis.

Inside job?

In the most recent breakout, 12 men fled a maximum security unit after a female accomplice posing as a lawyer managed to smuggle a hand gun into a visitor area.

Officials believe the escapees may have had inside help. Three guards have appeared in court charged with aiding the escape.

Also in the spotlight is the Correctional Services Minister, Tony Aimo, who has paid the price for departmental failings and has lost his job.

His responsibilities have now passed into the hands of the prime minister.

Mr Somare has the unenviable task of trying to fix a system that has been beset by lax security, allegations of corruption and pay disputes involving demoralised workers.

The hunt for the men who absconded from Bomana prison near Port Moresby is continuing. They have now been on the run for more than a week.

Papua New Guinea's most wanted man, William Kapris, has been accused of a string of bank robberies and other violent crimes, including hijacking an aircraft.

Last October, 500 inmates tried to escape from a jail outside Mount Hagen in the Western Highlands province after not being fed for two days.

That attempt was thwarted but a few weeks later more than 70 prisoners broke out of a facility near the city of Lae, where a senior official was held hostage and at least one escapee shot dead by the police.

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