Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Wanted drug trafficker held abroad

A convicted drugs trafficker has been captured abroad

Convicted drug trafficker and fraudster Martin Evans was arrested by armed officers in South Africa, the National Crime Agency has confirmed.

Evans, aged 52, from Swansea was apprehended at a housing complex in the Midrand area of Johannesburg on Saturday night.

He had been on the run since 2011 when he failed to return to prison after being released on licence.

He was serving 21 years at the time for conspiracy to supply cocaine and fraudulent trading.

Officials said investigators from the NCA alerted Interpol that Evans was in South Africa. That resulted in intelligence-led surveillance operations being conducted by the South African Police Service.

These operations led to Evans being tracked down to the housing complex where officers swooped as he was getting out of his car.

Hank Cole, head of international operations for the NCA, said: "The exceptional level of collaboration and intelligence sharing with the South African Police Service led to the capture of Evans.

"This arrest shows the NCA and its partners will pursue fugitives wherever they are in the world. They can run but they can't hide. We have the capability to track them down and bring them to justice."

General Riah Phiyega, South Africa National Police Commissioner, added: "Both the Crime Intelligence and Interpol teams worked tirelessly to honour the request of our British counterparts and we applaud them for this."

British High Commissioner to South Africa Judith Macgregor said the arrest was testimony to the "close working relationship between the UK and South Africa" on security issues including tackling drug trafficking, organised and fiscal crime. Evans - a former Young Businessperson of the Year - had previously given the authorities the slip while waiting to stand trial for fraud.

Days before he was to face justice for swindling 115 investors out of their savings in a £900,000 ostrich farm scam, he fled to Spain.

While trying to evade capture for that offence, he went on to lead an international gang smuggling ecstasy and cocaine worth at least £3 million into Britain.

He was later convicted of drug trafficking but released on temporary licence - before making off again.

Tracking down Evans was a global operation - given his previous links to the United States, the Netherlands and the Caribbean.

As part of Operation Zygos in 2012, the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) said it believed the disgraced Pontarddulais businessman was among a group of British fugitives hiding in Cyprus.

Lord Ashcroft, founder and Chair of Crimestoppers, said the organisation was "extremely relieved" to hear of Evans' arrest

He added: "There are now eight individuals remaining (in the Operation Zygos probe), thought to be evading justice overseas and I have every confidence we will succeed in finding them".

Evans will appear at Pretoria Regional Court tomorrow for an extradition hearing.

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