Wish you were here: Cyprus becoming popular bolt-hole for British criminals

... but now police have issued a list of nine 'most-wanted' suspects they believe are living there

For any self-respecting criminal in search of a haven to hide from the police, Cyprus ticks all the boxes: a large British expat community, lots of sun, nice restaurants, and – north of the Green Line – no extradition treaty.

In a sign of the growing importance of the Mediterranean island as a bolt-hole for the criminal classes, details of nine "most-wanted" suspects – wanted in Britain for crimes including rape, multimillion-pound fraud and drug dealing – were circulated yesterday.

The nine are all believed to be living or travelling in the Greek-Cypriot southern part of the divided island, where British authorities are working with their local counterparts to try to trace them. They include Martin Evans, 50, from Swansea, who is wanted for drug dealing, and Paul Lockwood, 41, sought for allegedly raping a girl.

But the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) accepts there is little it can do about organised criminals who do not cross the border and remain in the northern third of the island – unrecognised by Britain – but inhabited by Turkish Cypriots and a growing British community.

The details of the nine were released in a co-ordinated move, called Operation Zygos, in Cyprus at 10am involving local police, Soca and Crimestoppers.

A spokeswoman for Crimestoppers said that the Cypriots were bolstering their presence at the crossing between the two parts of the island to try to prevent any of the suspects from reaching the north after the launch of the operation.

Authorities in the northern part of the island – which is recognised only by Turkey – are not part of the programme, raising questions as to its potential effectiveness. "There's no question that these are not the only nine individuals wanted by UK law enforcement who are in Cyprus," said a Soca spokesman.

The northern part of the island was home to Asil Nadir for 17 years after he fled Britain while facing trial over the collapse of the company he headed, Polly Peck International. He was jailed last month for ten years but only after he voluntarily returned to Britain from Northern Cyprus, fully expecting to be cleared of stealing millions of pounds from his own company.

Detectives also believe that an alleged gangster, Sean Lupton, fled to Northern Cyprus in 2007 with millions of pounds from a £53m cash robbery of a Securitas depot in Tonbridge, Kent. He has not been seen since. His family claim he is probably dead.

The popularity of Cyprus has grown as the "Costa del Crime" in Spain has lost its lustre with the advent of the European Arrest Warrant, which has sped up the extradition process. In 2010-11, 38 of the 133 people surrendered to the UK under the scheme were from Spain and only one was from Cyprus. British police are hoping to build on the success of a similar "most-wanted" scheme – Operation Captura – which it started in Spain in October 2006 and led to 49 out of 65 suspects being arrested.

Soca said earlier this year that Northern Cyprus was emerging as a growing centre for fugitive criminals along with Thailand and South Africa, which all have relatively large English populations. Deputy director of Soca Martin Molloy said: "Fugitives hiding overseas typically remain part of the criminal world, continuing to bring harm to communities locally and beyond. Soca and our partners are determined to ensure life on the run is intolerable for them, and that they are returned to face justice in the UK."

The European Arrest Warrants have been lauded as playing a significant role in dismantling networks of criminals in Spain, but some campaigners have highlighted what they claim are malicious and petty prosecutions under the scheme, which began in 2004.

Catherine Heard, head of policy at Fair Trials International, said: "The European Arrest Warrant was intended to improve cross-border co-operation by streamlining and speeding up the extradition process and it has had some notable successes, but in too many cases the lack of safeguards in this system has led to grave injustice."

Island getaways: Cyprus' top suspects

The nine most wanted believed to be in Cyprus are:

Hasan Akarcay

The 56-year-old Cypriot is wanted by West Yorkshire police for dealing drugs.

Martin Evans

The 50-year-old from Swansea is wanted for drug dealing, theft and fraud.

Paul Lockwood

Lockwood, 41, is accused of raping a girl between the age of six and 10.

Timur Mehmet

Convicted and jailed for eight years in his absence over a £25m fraud.

Costas Sampson

A Greek-Cypriot wanted for allegedly raping a woman he met at a nightclub.

Mehmet Salih

A Cypriot, 41, wanted by police in Leicestershire for alleged cocaine dealing.

Wayne Smith

Convicted for his role in an horrific car accident in which a 22-year-old man died.

Julie Anne Skelding

Accused of covering up for Wayne Smith, her boyfriend, after the car crash.

Martin John Power

The 46-year-old is wanted by Scotland Yard for alleged role in £7m mortgage fraud.

Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn