Fugitive ostrich farm fraudster Martin Evans held in South Africa

Martin Evans evaded police for three years until arrested in South Africa

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Fugitive conman, drug dealer and money launderer Martin Evans has been arrested by armed police in South Africa after three years on the run.

Evans, 52, from Swansea - who was jailed for 21 years in 2006 for conspiracy to supply cocaine and fraudulent trading - was arrested in Johannesburg on Saturday.

His scams included swindling 87 investors out of £900,000 in an ostrich farm fraud in south Wales.

He will appear in court on Monday.

'UK's most wanted'

Evans was named by police as one of the UK's "most wanted" in 2012 who said they suspected he was living a life of luxury, probably on Cyprus.

A spokesman for the National Crime Agency (NCA) said Evans was sought as part of Operation Zygos, which was set up to track Britain's 12 most wanted people.

He said: "We knew he had moved to South Africa. We were tracking him down."

Evans disappeared in August 2011 after failing to return from a weekend release from prison in Wiltshire.

He was arrested on Saturday night after an operation involving the NCA and Interpol, and intelligence-led surveillance operations were handled by South African Police.

Evans was tracked down to the housing complex where officers swooped as he was getting out of his car.

Hank Cole, the NCA's head of international operations, said: "The exceptional level of collaboration and intelligence sharing with the South African Police Service led to the capture of Evans.

Swindled investors

"This arrest shows the NCA and its partners will pursue fugitives wherever they are in the world.

"They can run but they can't hide. We have the capacity to track them down and bring them to justice."

Evans had been known to use the aliases Martin Roydon Evans, Martin Wayne Evans, Anthony Hall and Paul Kelly.

It is not the first time Evans has been on the run.

Before he was jailed in 2006, he had been hiding in Holland and Spain, where he masterminded a drugs and money laundering operation, shipping at least £3m of ecstasy and cocaine into Britain.

Evans began his criminal career in the mid 1990s after his double-glazing firm in Port Talbot failed.

Martin Evans at his ostrich farm Evans set up his ostrich farm after another business failed

He set up an ostrich-breeding business, promising profits of 70% a year, and targeting newly-retired people for investment by advertising in specialist retirement magazines.

But he swindled 115 investors out of their savings in a £900,000 scam.

On the day his trial was due to start in Swansea in March 2000, Evans jumped bail and sent a fax to the court saying he would not be attending.

Criminal earnings

He went on the run as the authorities searched for his assets in Jersey and the Bahamas.

He was caught in November 2001 while trying to enter the US with a false passport.

At his 2006 trial at Swansea Crown Court, Evans was sentenced to 24 years in jail, but this was reduced to 21 years and three months, on appeal.

He was also given a separate sentence of eight years for failure to comply with a £4.5m confiscation order which the court heard would "extinguish" his criminal earnings.

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

Evans, a former Young Businessman of the Year for Wales, was brought up in Pontardulais, Swansea.

He will appear in court in Pretoria for an extradition hearing.

Police said eight people were still being sought under Operation Zygos.

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