Young Briton is world's most wanted woman

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The Independent Online
FOR TWO years Lisa Smith has been on the run. Yesterday she achieved the dubious distinction, at the age of just 22, of being named alongside murderers and terrorists on Interpol's top ten most wanted list. Orders are that she is to be arrested on sight.

The daughter of a wealthy British businessman based in Hong Kong, she jumped bail after being charged with smuggling drugs.

Like other wealthy expatriate families, the Smiths live in some style in the exclusive Peak district. Miss Smith's father, Terry, is a wealthy businessman and his family enjoys a life of considerable comfort with domestic servants to look after them. Mr Smith's daughter has not been home since the summer of 1996.

The case has been devastating for the family, which has paid for the best legal defence that could be bought to help Miss Smith, who pleaded not guilty to the trafficking charges.

Mr Smith is well known in Hong Kong as a high profile character, running one of the territory's largest insurance companies, the Australian-owned National Mutual.

But he retained a low profile when his daughter was arrested, refusing to comment on the case and retreating from public life.

The choice of adding Miss Smith to the Interpol list may seem curious, considering the assortment of mass murderers, mafiosa, drugs barons and terrorists at large around the world. But hers was the name the Thai authorities, adamant at cracking drugs smuggling in their country, nominated.

It is also the first time that Interpol, the international policing organisation, has made its "most wanted" list public. Miss Smith's picture and details will be posted on the Internet in the next few days as well as being sent to all 177 countries - including Britain - who make up the organisation.

The other nine people on the wanted poster include alleged terrorists, murderers, a kidnapper and a drug dealer and rapist. The suspects all have the highest risk category, called "red notice" status.

Police sources believe it is extremely hard for a young person to remain on the run for more than two years.

Apart from the difficulty of having to find an untraceable source of income to live on there is the added toll of being cut off from friends and family.

Miss Smith, who studied catering at Eastleigh College, Southampton, after going to school in Australia, moved to Hong Kong with her parents when her father was posted there y his company.

She has been on the run since August 1996, when she fled while on bail in Thailand. She had been arrested at Bangkok airport six months earlier, accused of trying to smuggle 4kg of cannabis and 560 amphetamine tablets.

The arrest had followed a tip-off. Miss Smith claimed she had been given a bag containing the drugs by men she met in Bangkok's Khao San Road backpacker district.

Running short of money, she said, she was offered pounds 1,000 by a Pakistani acquaintance called Hassan, who paid for her air ticket and asked her to carry a bag to Tokyo and deliver it to a contact who would meet her.

The young woman was visiting Thailand on a two-month trip as part of a Christmas gift from her parents.

Miss Smith was facing a maximum jail sentence of 15 years and had spent less than four months in Lao Yard women's prison, the notorious "Bangkok Hilton".

After being released on bail - when her father put up pounds 40,000 - she absconded.

Miss Smith, who has dual nationality, is believed to have fled to Athens on her Australian passport, and obtained a new passport from the British Embassy there.

There was considerable surprise in Thailand when she was not only freed on bail but allowed to travel overseas while facing serious drug smuggling charges. During her bail hearing Miss Smith was allowed to sit not in the dock but next to her three lawyers and was picked up following her release by a limousine.

At the time local journalists could not recall another case in which such leniency was shown to a drug trafficking suspect.

Foreigners are routinely remanded on the grounds that they are likely to abscond if allowed out of the country.

The initial refusal by Bangkok anti-drug authorities to request an international search through Interpol, fuelling rumours that her freedom was "bought".

While the FBI in the United States also has a "Ten Most Wanted" list the Interpol top ten are not necessarily the most dangerous or big time criminals. All the Interpol members were asked to nominate their most wanted criminals and the ten were chosen by the international organisation as a cross section of offenders. The red notices act as an international arrest warrant and it was this system which led to the capture of Carlos the Jackal.

A spokesman for the National Criminal Intelligence Service, where the London branch of Interpol is based, said: "We think this is an exceptional idea when the trail has gone cold."

... and the nine

most wanted men

William Brodie

Wanted for the murder of Vincent Kelly, who was knifed to death in a hotel toilet in Glasgow in 1993. The 32-year-old Scotsman fled after being released on bail.

Igor Giorgadz

Accused of organising a rocket-propelled grenade attack on a motorcade carrying Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze in 1995. Giorgadz, 48, an ex -security chief, fled to Moscow.

Antonio Angles Martins

Known as The Fox. Martins, 32, is wanted for questioning about the rape, torture and murder of three schoolgirls in Spain in 1992. Described as "dangerous, violent, infectious, and addicted to drugs".

Steve Wolosky

Operates under seven aliases. Born in New York, the 48-year-old American is wanted in connection with conspiracy to import, possess and supply cannabis.

Nikolaos Paleokostas

He is a Greek, 38, who is wanted for possession of explosives and firearms and for kidnapping. He is described by police as violent, armed, and dangerous.

Bassam Al-Taher

Wanted for allegedly carrying out bomb attacks on businesses around his home country of Austria. Charges against Al-Taher, 36, also include various firearm and explosives offences.

Kowk Leung Chan

Aged 35, he is being hunted in his native Hong Kong for conspiracy to issue counterfeit banknotes.

Jean Dieuseul

Wanted for murder in Canada, the 37-year-old Haitian is considered extremely violent by the authorities.

Nicolae Ion

Another extremely violent character, according to Interpol's files. The 35-year-old Romanian is being sought for murder.