Convicted fraudster on the run

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The Independent Online

A drugs baron and convicted fraudster has once again gone on the run, police have confirmed.

Disgraced former Swansea businessman Martin Evans, 49, was given a prison sentence of 21 years and three months for his part in a multi-million pound drug smuggling operation.

He was then later given a separate eight year jail term for failing to comply with a £4.5 million confiscation order.

Before being brought to justice for an ostrich farm scam, Evans fled to Spain where he started a new life as a drugs dealer.

Today Wiltshire Police admitted Evans had broken the terms of a three-day temporary release by failing to return to prison and have now launched a public appeal to trace his whereabouts.

A spokesman said: "Martin Evans, originally from South Wales, has been an inmate at Erlestoke prison since 2006.

"He was released on temporary licence to an address in Swansea, between August 5 and 8, but failed to return.

"Substantial inquiries have been carried out with many agencies including circulation of his details and photograph to all forces, circulation as wanted on the police national computer, and financial and intelligence checks."

It is not the first time the former Welsh businessman of the year has been on the run from the authorities.

Days before he was to face justice for swindling 115 investors out of their savings in an ostrich farm scam, he fled to Spain with his mistress.

Evans was apprehended a year later when he flew into JFK airport in New York using a false passport.

His trial at Swansea Crown Court in 2006 heard that Evans had attracted 115 investors who put up a total of £880,000 for the ostrich farm business. The company collapsed 24 weeks later because of "large-scale theft".

As soon as money came in, it was siphoned off into a series of overseas bank accounts. The receivers were then called in and the business declared insolvent.

While trying to evade capture for that offence, he then went on to smuggle ecstasy and cocaine worth at least £3 million into Britain.

It was also estimated he earned £9 million using couriers to carry drugs from the Netherlands and Spain to South Wales.

He was initially sentenced to 24 years in jail, but this was reduced to 21 years three months on appeal.

Evans was also given a separate sentence of eight years for failure to comply with a confiscation order, which would "extinguish" his criminal earnings.

A jury was told an investigation had identified that Evans owned a property in Swansea, a £2 million villa in Marbella and had bank accounts in Latvia, Antigua, Switzerland and Dominica as well as the UK.

Detective Constable Kevin Hegg stressed Evans did not pose an "immediate threat" to the public, but said it was important he was "swiftly" found.

He added: "While he has links in South Wales he may well have travelled further afield.

"He is circulated as wanted on the police national computer and we are confident that alongside the public's help and working closely with other forces and partner agencies he will be located."

Anyone with any information in relation to Evans, or who may have seen him, is asked to contact police immediately.

People can also contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 where information can be left anonymously.