British police close in on criminals seeking "yachts and villas" lifestyle
Operation Captura has already helped detain eight felons at large in Spain24 January 2008
MADRID - British police are ramping up a crackdown on criminals believed to be using their ill-gotten gains to enjoy the sun, sand and sea in Spanish beach resorts on the back of the success of a campaign that has brought eight wanted Britons to justice over the past year.
Operation Captura, run jointly by the British Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), the Crimestoppers charity and Spanish authorities, has focused mainly on the resorts along the Costa del Sol that the British media have long called the "Costa del Crime" because of the fugitives known to have taken up residency there.
"British crooks who thought they could enjoy a 'yachts and villas' lifestyle in Spain have received a nasty shock," SOCA Director General Bill Hughes said in a statement. "Many of them are now experiencing a rather different lifestyle at Her Majesty's pleasure [in prison]," he added.
Since Crimestoppers, an organisation that seeks the help of the public to fight crime, put photos of 20 British fugitives thought to be in Spain on its website, eight have been arrested and returned to the United Kingdom. Among them are murderers, sex offenders, armed robbers and drug traffickers who fled to Spain and blended in with the large British communities in the country's beach resorts, where British-style pubs and fish-and-chip shops are a common sight.
They included the notorious Clifford Hobbs, who escaped from a prison transport van in London in June 2003 while being taken from Brixton Prison to the Inner London Crown Court where he was due to face charges in connection with the theft of GBP 1.25 million (EUR 1.67m) from a security van. He was eventually arrested in Spain last August. Another suspect was Paul Bures, who was wanted for sex offences. Following his appearance on Crimestoppers and a manhunt by the Spanish police, he returned to the UK in October 2007 and handed himself in. According to Dave Cording, Crimestoppers' director of operations, it is unlikely he would have done so were it not for Operation Captura closing in on him.
"The success of Operation Captura speaks for itself. Once the photograph of the criminal is posted on our website they have nowhere to hide," Cording said.
"SOCA has worked with Crimestoppers and the Spanish to bring these criminals to justice but we couldn't have done it without the help of the public," Hughes noted. "Now we need your help again."
The new phase of Operation Captura includes the release of information on 10 other wanted British criminals, sought in the UK for crimes ranging from murder and battery to cannabis and heroin trafficking.
They include James Walter Tomkins, a 58-year-old Londoner wanted for the murder of a man in the county of Essex in May 2006. Police are offering a GBP 20,000 (EUR 26,700) reward for information leading to his arrest. Another suspect is David Alfred Andrews, the 66-year-old alleged leader of a drug-trafficking ring that conspired to smuggle vast quantities of cocaine into Britain between 2000 and 2003.
The Crimestoppers website (www.crimestoppers-uk.org) lists distinguishing features of the wanted suspects, including prominent scars, and tattoos on their bodies.
The charity is urging anyone with information about the fugitives to call them on 900 555 111 in Spain or 0800 555 111 in the UK.
[Copyright EL PAÍS / ANDREW EATWELL 2008]
Subject: Spanish news