Ted Maher, a former Green Beret originally of Auburn, Maine, was captured in the resort town of Nice after a daring escape from prison in the principality of Monaco, where he had began serving a 10-year sentence for arson late last year.
Maher was convicted in December of arson in a 1999 fire in Monaco that also killed one of Safra's other nurses, Vivian Torrente.
Maher apparently escaped overnight from the Monaco jail with another prisoner by sawing through the bars of their cell, French police said. Monaco authorities blocked off routes leading into the principality and launched a wide manhunt for the escapees.
The case was a sensation for Monaco, a tiny Mediterranean principality better known for sumptuous casinos, Formula One racing and tax breaks that attract the world's rich and famous. The enclave's leading newspaper, Monaco Matin, dubbed it Monaco's "Trial of the Century."
Safra, the 67-year-old founder and principal stock owner of the Republic National Bank of New York, had Parkinson's disease and required constant care. He paid Maher US$600 a day.
During his trial, Maher confessed to setting the blaze but that he never expected the fire to rage out of control.
Maher admitted that the fire was part of a bizarre plan to ingratiate himself with Safra, who died in the Dec. 3, 1999 blaze in his Monaco penthouse.
During his testimony, Maher said he started the blaze in a small wastebasket, expecting it to set off a fire alarm that would bring help and allow him to reap the credit for saving his employer.
Donald Manasse, a Monaco lawyer who represented Maher in the trial, said he could not immediately comment on reports that his client had been captured after escaping from prison.
According to the CIA World Factbook, Monaco is home to 31,000 people and covers an area about three times the size of The Mall in Washington.