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The so-called ‘Robin Hood of Greece’ has broken out of prison not once but twice by helicopter – and still remains at large to this day.

Inspired by action movies he binged on VHS, Vassilis Palaiokostas has made millions from robbing state-owned banks and cashing in on ransoms from kidnapping industrialists.

But the 55-year-old earned his nickname by generously handing out bundles of cash to the poor and needy on a regular basis, which helped him win over the respect and protection of the Greek public.

One of his former cellmates, Polykarpos Georgiadis previously told BBC News: “Criminals snatch purses from old ladies. Vassilis was on a different level: he is a socially accepted bandit and a hero.”

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An £832,000 (one million euros) bounty has remained on Palaiokostas’ capture by the Greek authorities since his second jailbreak on February 22 2009.

Watching films starring Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Clint Eastwood lit a light bulb for Palaiokostas.

The former cheese factory worker was allegedly sick of his country’s increasing wealth gap in the 1980s and decided to quit “working as a wage slave” and take matters into his own hands, Georgiadis added.

Trikala Policeman Dimitrios Gravanis said Vassilis’ petty theft turned into well thought out bank robberies when he met Costas Samaras, a.k.a. The Artist.

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With Vassilis’ older brother Niko also involved, the trio launched an era of organised crime which saw them once drive a stolen tank through a bank wall.

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Greece’s very own Robin Hood’ made his first jail break on June 4 2006 when a helicopter pilot enjoying a joy ride had a gun pressed against his neck by two passengers five minutes in.

Nikos ordered the pilot to fly to the prison where guards assumed they were VIPs only for a rope ladder to be dropped and Vassilis was whisked out to freedom.

But within a couple of years Vassilis was back behind bars and on February 22 2009, the break out was replicated.

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The helicopter had been hijacked from Interjet and again the pilot was threatened with a grenade.

A woman told him: “We’re going to pick up the kids. Korydallos prison, or you die.”

Palaiokostas and a fellow prisoner grabbed hold of a rope ladder thrown down to them and made it out alive despite guards firing unleashing 30-round clips from MP5 submachine guns into the belly of the aircraft.

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A bullet penetrated the gas tank and another severed a fuel line causing aviation fuel to spray up into the cockpit.

Since breaking out 13 years ago Palaiokostas has evaded handcuffs, earning him the second nickname of the ‘uncatchable’.

When his criminal mentor Artist was asked what inspired the Greek Robin Hood, he simply replied: “Movies”.

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