You can run, but it's harder to hide

Rio's out, and other boltholes are being closed to fleeing villains, writes Raymond Whitaker

Skipping off to Rio with the loot has long been a staple of real- life drama (Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs did it) as well as the fictional kind - remember Shallow Grave? But villains are having to seek other boltholes following the signing of an extradition treaty between Britain and Brazil.

Biggs himself is unlikely to be shipped home as a result of the agreement, since Brazilian law does not allow the prosecution of crimes committed more than 20 years ago. The train robber has consulted a British expert on extradition law, Alun Jones QC, and years of legal wrangling in the Brazilian courts could be in prospect.

Even if that fails, Biggs could cross to neighbouring Venezuela, which still has no extradition treaty with Britain, or go slightly further afield to Costa Rica, which has an equable climate, is unusually peaceful and democratic by central American standards and has harboured leading American fugitives, such as the financier Robert Vesco, in the past.

Contrary to its image as the destination of choice for those feeling misunderstood by the law, however, Latin America has few other places of refuge. There may be anarchy in Haiti and Colombia, but they have extradition treaties with Britain, though enforcing them is often difficult. The addition of Brazil brings the number of Britain's extradition partners to 107, including 30 countries which have signed the European Convention on Extradition. Russia is among another five in the process of ratification, which means there is almost nowhere to run to west of the Urals. We even have an extradition deal with San Marino.

Clare Montgomery QC, another specialist in the field, said the number of extraditions from other countries sought by Britain each year had risen from "low double figures" in the 1960s to about 150. The figures were roughly the same in the other direction. "The increase is due to the larger number of extradition treaties we have, as well as wider agreements such as the European Convention," she said. "There is also much more international crime."

Reciprocal arrangements with 47 Commonwealth countries eliminates much of the rest of the world as a hiding place, although there are significant omissions, such as Pakistan. The Home Office will not comment on countries which are not extradition partners, or where it is seeking to negotiate agreements, but a list of nations which have signed treaties with Britain shows that the fugitive has most choice in Africa. Liberia is the only non-Commonwealth country on the continent to have come to an agreement, leaving plenty of scope, from Morocco - probably the closest point of refuge to these islands - to Egypt and Namibia. South Africa was once a tempting bolthole, but jurisdictional difficulties with Britain have eased since the end of apartheid.

If you can't stand the heat, there are few places to go. Belarus and Ukraine have yet to reach extradition agreements with us, but the winters are as appalling as their economies, and they are unlikely to be willing to jeopardise their future European credentials.

Leaving out the central Asian republics and other similarly unappealing corners of the world, the most promising region for the involuntary expatriate is east Asia. Although Thailand is out, one can escape to China, Vietnam, South Korea and - perhaps most surprisingly - Japan.

The favourite, however, must be the Philippines. As the late Lord Moynihan knew when he went there to avoid his gambling debts, the pound goes a long way and English is widely spoken. He opened a chain of massage parlours and left behind a couple of half-Filipino sons who unsuccessfully tried to claim his title.

The countries to avoid are those which have agreed to carry out British arrest warrants, although these include Ireland, which has several times found technical flaws in warrants for IRA suspects. It is not enough, however, to flee somewhere which has no formal agreements with London: if the government is sufficiently autocratic and your presence sufficiently inconvenient, you may be deported without legal niceties.

This applies even to northern Cyprus, which Britain refuses to recognise as a country at all. It has attracted the likes of Asil Nadir, founder of the collapsed Polly Peck empire, and, it is believed, Kenneth Noye, a career criminal who helped to launder the proceeds of the Brinks-Mat robbery and is now sought for questioning in connection with last year's "road rage" killing of 21-year-old Stephen Cameron on an M25 slip-road.

"The northern Cypriot authorities do co-operate loosely with their British counterparts when it suits them," said Ms Montgomery. "People have been deported unofficially into the arms of the British police." If you have to leave in a hurry, it seems, better make for Manila or San Jose (capital of Costa Rica, as you may need to know).

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?