Guards at Holland’s Noordsingel Prison, a medium-security institution in Rotterdam, discovered
the jailbreak shortly after 10 p.m. on May 31. According to prison officials. 36-year-old Ernesto Barreto-Morales— at one time a swashbuckling figure on Montreal’s nightclub scene—had sawed through the bars of his cell window. Then, accompanied by his Dutch-born cell mate, he climbed a perimeter wall
and fled into the night. Now Dutch authorities are trying to determine if the two men bribed prison guards to help them escape. And for Canadian officials, the successful breakout ruined a seven-month legal battle with BarretoMorales’s lawyers. Indeed, only two days before Barreto-Morales disappeared, the Netherlands Supreme Court upheld an extradition request to return him to Canada—to face charges of importing and trafficking in cocaine.
Police laid those charges against the Peruvian-born fugitive in April, 1985, after an RCMP raid in the Montreal suburb of Rosemere netted 60 lb. of cocaine from a makeshift drug-processing laboratory. Five men later went to prison because of that raid—among them Jean Renault, a friend of Barreto-Morales who was then a junior partner in one of Montreal’s leading law firms. He was convicted of trafficking in cocaine and
received a 14V2-year jail sentence. But the alleged mastermind of the drug ring evaded capture. In 1984 BarretoMorales, who used the alias Mario “Tito” Pacheco during his four-year stay in Montreal, even managed to slip out of the country. And he evaded another attempt to return him to Canada later that year when police in his native Peru arrested him at Canada’s request. But Barreto-Morales managed to convince a judge to release him before the extradition documents arrived from Ottawa—and disappeared again.
Still, Barreto-Morales’s luck appeared to have run out last November, when he booked a flight from London to Caracas that included a transfer at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. According to Dutch officials, Barreto-Morales was carrying $60,000 in U.S. funds— and travelling on a forged U.S. passport. After they discovered his real identity, Dutch officials arrested Barreto-Morales and informed justice department authorities in Ottawa—who promptly requested that the wanted man be held in jail pending the outcome of extradition hearings. At that time Barreto-Morales’s forced return to Canada appeared inevitable. Dutch authorities said that even if the court rejected the Canadian extradition request, they would send him back to London—where Canadian officials could renew their attempts to extradite him.
Instead, Barreto-Morales made his jailbreak, clearly disappointing Canadian officials, including the federal prosecutor who initiated the extradition. Declared Oksana Kaluzny: “I am shocked. I would never have expected this to have happened in Holland.” But some of the RCMP narcotics agents who had sought his capture said they believed that the alleged drug trafficker had the wealth and influence to buy his way out of prison.
Indeed, some of the officers who used to watch the legendary womanizer arriving at Montreal nightclubs in a customized red Porsche sports car estimate that Barreto-Morales’s alleged drug dealing could have generated a yearly income of $1 million. Concluded one RCMP officer: “Tito waited to see if he could beat the extradition legally, and when he lost he escaped.” Barreto-Morales was still at large at week’s end— with his reputation as an extremely elusive fugitive from justice intact.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.