By Brad Lendon, CNN
(CNN) — Australian police say time is quickly running out for the arrest of one of the country’s most-wanted murder suspects, who they believed fled to Greece almost 25 years ago.
James Dalamangas, now 54, is wanted in connection with an April 25, 1999, stabbing at a nightclub in the Sydney suburb of Belmore that left 32-year-old George Giannopoulos dead.
An arrest warrant was issued for Dalamangas a day after the killing, but he has avoided capture, Australian Federal Police and New South Wales Police said Tuesday in a joint statement.
“Dalamangas was able to flee the country soon after the incident took place, and we believe he went to Greece and has remained in Greece ever since,” Grant Taylor, detective superintendent of NSW Police, told a press conference.
And there lies the problem for Australian authorities – Greece has a 25-year statute of limitations for prosecution, so authorities have only four months to find Dalamangas and initiate legal proceedings.
In 2003, after attempts to get Dalamangas extradited to Australia were unsuccessful, Greek authorities agreed to prosecute him, according to the joint statement. However, that process was suspended when they weren’t able to find him.
The victim’s sister, Toula Giannopoulos, made a plea for help in finding the suspect in her brother’s killing, so his family, including children who were ages 8 and 4 at the time of their father’s death, could move on with their lives.
“I believe there’s people, both here and in Greece, who are covering him up, and it makes it damn hard for my family,” she said.
“It’s been 25 years of battling through loss and grief with no justice or closure to help us through this pain,” Toula Giannopoulos said.
Police noted that the Giannopoulos family emigrated to Australia from Greece.
“They’re appealing to the hearts of the motherland in regards to helping them out to find justice for their family,” Taylor said.
Australian police released an age-progression image of Dalamangas, showing what he could look like at age 54, as they made a plea for people in Greece to help find him.
They also noted there is a reward of 200,000 Australian dollars ($134,000) for information leading to Dalamangas’ arrest that can be claimed outside Australia.
Taylor acknowledged that time is running out, at least in getting Dalamangus before a Greek court, but possibly forever if the suspect doesn’t leave the country.
“Within Greece, he may not be prosecuted after April,” Taylor said.
“If Dalamangus were to leave Greece, then all bets are off.”
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