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Serial conman caught in South Africa after 21 years on the run

Brandon William Pyatt, 64, was jailed for five years in his absence in 1998

Brandon Pyatt has been arrested by the South African Police Service in Pretoria (NCA/PA)
Brandon Pyatt has been arrested by the South African Police Service in Pretoria (NCA/PA)

A convicted conman who faced legal action after using Manchester United striker Eric Cantona’s image on a range of wines without his permission has been caught in South Africa after 21 years on the run.

Brandon William Pyatt, 64, from Droylsden in Manchester, used a series of false identities to evade capture for more than two decades, until he was finally arrested last week.

A National Crime Agency officer, who has worked on the case since Pyatt first went on the run, said it gave him “great personal satisfaction” that the fraudster had been caught.

Pyatt committed a series of frauds linked to a vehicle leasing company that he ran in the North West of England in the mid-1990s, leaving some of his victims tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket.

He skipped bail during his trial at Chester Crown Court for fraud and deception, and in 1998 was jailed for five years in his absence.

The 64-year-old was finally arrested in Pretoria last week after the UK National Crime Agency tipped off South African authorities.

The serial conman is also facing criminal charges in South Africa for alleged fraud and theft.

He appeared in court in Durban on Tuesday, and the proceedings there will be dealt with before extradition is considered.

NCA officer Danny Murphy, who worked on the original investigation into Pyatt in 1998 and has been involved in the hunt for him ever since, said: “I can say that the arrest of Pyatt brings me great personal satisfaction.

“We never gave up, and his eventual capture is testament to the hard work of NCA officers in the UK and abroad and the South African Authorities.

“I hope the victims of Pyatt’s offending will now experience some form of closure knowing that he is finally behind bars, and I thank them for their patience over the last two decades.”

Pyatt hit the headlines in the mid-1990s when he faced High Court action for using French striker Cantona’s image on a range of wines and brandy.

Head of international operations for the NCA Ian Cruxton said: “Pyatt travelled to the other side of the world and used a range of aliases and assumed identities in a bid to evade us.

“He is a prolific fraudster, and it seems that during his time in South Africa he has continued his offending and continued causing harm, making it all the more important that we track him down.”

PA

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