Greene, 57, a Londoner, disappeared recently from the "Costa del Crime" in Spain, where he had been living incognito, even as officers planned to arrest him in connection with a multi-million-pound drug smuggling operation. Greene is believed to worth pounds 50m and is said to have supplied drugs to two of London's most notorious crime families.
He is wanted by the British, Polish, French, Moroccan, Dutch and Irish authorities for different crimes. In some cases he has arrest warrants outstanding from 15 years ago. Police in Ireland seized more than pounds 600,000 of Greene's assets, which he left behind when he fled Ireland two years ago: he was forced to do a moonlight flit with his 21-year-old girlfriend after he was tipped off that the IRA planned to kidnap and ransom him for the stashed profits of his drug dealing.
British Customs officers want Greene in connection with a slew of drug- smuggling and money-laundering allegations. Already, 27 people have been arrested in the inquiry. Another 14, including Greene, are still wanted.
He has visited Britain within the past two years using forged passports. In October 1997 he flew to London to arrange the smuggling of a consignment of cannabis from Spain to London. He arrived from Spain with his young girlfriend, Anita, using a false passport in the name of Michael Durrant. They stayed at two top London hotels. On 23 October he held a secret meeting at the Intercontinental Hotel in Park Lane with the London distributors for his smuggled drugs.
The Independent has also discovered that a Scotland Yard detective from an elite unit is under investigation after allegations that he was corrupted by Greene. The officer is said to have been paid thousands of pounds via an intermediary, in return for secret Customs intelligence reports.
Michael John Paul Greene was born in 1942 and is described by an old friend as "a good old fashioned London villain. He is your original gold medallion man with a taste for the booze and birds."
Greene began to make his mark publicly in 1972 when the first "supergrass", Bertie Smalls, named him as the leader of the Wembley Mob - then the country's most successful armed robbery team. It netted pounds 1.3m in four years. Greene was jailed for 18 years for his part in the 1970 robbery of a bank in Ilford, north-east London, that yielded pounds 237,000, a record at the time.
Greene was paroled after he served half his sentence and went straight back to his previous ways. He teamed up with his old Wembley Mob partner Ronnie Dark - known as Dark Ronnie in criminal circles - to develop a lucrative new scam. They were the first big villains to realise the potential of a gold krugerrand VAT fraud. They bought gold coins - which did not carry VAT - melted them into ingots and sold the gold back to the bullion house, this time collecting VAT. The gang is estimated to have made pounds 6m in a few months.
While some gang members were arrested and jailed, Greene fled to Spain. There he became a prominent figure on the "Costa del Crime" in the days before Britain had an extradition agreement with Spain.
He next appeared in the headlines in 1982 when he was accused of being involved in a kidnap gang that had tried to hold for ransom a wealthy British businessman in Spain. Again Greene escaped arrest.
He met Ronnie Knight, wanted at the time in connection with the 1983 Security Express robbery. Like a number of other London heavies who were "on their toes" (fugitives from the British police) Greene began building a drug empire using Spain as a staging post to run drugs into Europe from north Africa. In 1987 he was held after two tons of hashish was seized. He got bail and fled to Morocco, leaving behind 11 power boats and yachts used for drug-running.
Next the French police swooped on his Paris flat where they found gold bullion and cocaine but no Greene. He was later sentenced to 17 years in his absence.
Then in California, he rented Rod Stewart's mansion under an alias. FBI agents swooped as he lounged by the pool and arrested him. They put him on a flight bound for London. But Greene simply got off when the plane made a stopover at Shannon airport.
In 1994 he bought a home in Kilcock, 20 miles from Dublin, for pounds 200,000 from a building supplies merchant. But a year later Greene ran a red light at a busy junction in his Bentley and killed a taxi driver. He was prosecuted and banned from driving. When his background emerged after the accident, the IRA reportedly became interested in Greene. He took the hint and made himself scarce.
Irish law is much tougher than British law on seizing assets thought to be the proceeds of drug dealing. The Gardai have sequestered his Irish homes. The Kilcock house is now worth pounds 350,000 and he also owned a penthouse in Customs House Dock, Dublin, worth more than pounds 250,000.
Greene is said to have fled back to Spain where he owned a villa. One accomplice says he had pounds 1m cash in French francs in a box buried under the villa's flower-bed.
British Customs declined to comment officially on their interest in Greene. However, one Customs officer said yesterday: "It looks as though, for the moment, he has escaped justice. But we are still hoping to nick him."