Redoine Faid’s break-out has triggered a huge manhunt around the French capital.
It is his second escape – last time he blasted his way out of jail with hidden explosives.
France’s justice ministry said Faid’s escape on Sunday only took a few minutes and nobody was injured or taken hostage at the Reau Prison just south of the French capital.
The ministry said an armed commando landed in a helicopter in the courtyard as the prisoner was in the visiting room of the prison.
A union representative at Reau Prison, Martial Delabroye, told BFM television that two men dressed in black, wearing balaclavas and police armbands entered in the prison to look for Faid.
He said they used a grinding machine to open the door that leads to the visiting room.
The helicopter was later found abandoned in the town of Garges-les-Gonesse, in the northern suburbs of Paris.
Faid is believed to have fled by car along with his accomplices.
French prosecutors have opened an investigation but it is not the first time Faid, 46, has gone on the run.
In 2013, he blasted his way out of prison with explosives concealed in tissue packets and was arrested at a hotel six weeks later.
Faid was jailed for 25 years for the death of a young policewoman killed during a botched robbery in 2010.
In the 1990s, Faid led a criminal gang involved in the armed robbery of banks and armoured vans transporting cash.
He was arrested in 1998 after three years on the run in Switzerland and Israel, according to French media.
Faid was freed in 2009 after serving 10 years in prison and at the time he swore he had turned his life around.
He penned a confessional book about his life of crime and embarked on an extensive media tour in 2010.
But he was suspected of masterminding an attempted armed robbery in 2010 that led to a high-speed chase and a shootout with police in which 26-year-old policewoman Aurelie Fouquet was killed. He was arrested in 2011.
Faid, along with two accomplices, was convicted for the murder of the policewoman.