Martin Evans, of Pontatddulai, near Swansea, Wales, one of Britains most wanted men who has been missing since November 2011, was arrested in Midrand. Photo: National Crime Agency

Cape Town - One of the UK’s most-wanted men has been arrested in South Africa after being on the run for three years following his conviction for fraud and drug trafficking.

Police spokesman Lieutenant-General Solomon Makgale said Martin Evans, 52, from Swansea in Wales, had been on the run since 2011 when he failed to return to prison after being given a few days’ release. He was serving 21 years for conspiracy to supply cocaine, and fraudulent trading.

Makgale said investigators from the UK’s National Crime Agency told Interpol he was in South Africa and surveillance was conducted.

He was arrested at a security complex in Midrand, where he was allegedly living with a female companion from Cyprus, on Saturday night after a joint surveillance operation by SAPS national crime intelligence unit and Interpol.

He was expected to appear in the Pretoria Regional Court on Monday for a procedural extradition hearing.

The announcement included congratulations to the team from national police commissioner, General Riah Phiyega.

“Both the crime intelligence and Interpol teams worked tirelessly to honour the request of our British counterparts and we applaud them for this,” she said.

Hank Cole, head of international operations for Britain’s National Crime Agency, said the “exceptional level of collaboration and intelligence sharing with the SAPS led to the capture of Evans”. It showed that fugitives could not hide, he said.

British high commissioner to South Africa Judith Macgregor said: “This arrest is testimony to the close working relationship between the UK and South Africa on security issues including tackling drug trafficking, organised and fiscal crime. This includes a wide range of bilateral co-operation projects in law enforcement in South Africa and other parts of Africa.”

Evans has been on the run since 2011 when he failed to return on a five-day prison release licence in Wiltshire. According to media reports, his scams include swindling 87 investors of £900 000 (over R16 million) in an ostrich farm in south Wales.

In 2012, police named Evans one of the UK’s “most wanted” and believed he was living a life of luxury on Cyprus.

He led an organised crime group supplying cocaine, MDMA and ecstasy between 1999 and 2001 and was jailed for this in 2006.

A spokesman for the National Crime Agency said Evans had been sought as part of Operation Zygos, which was set up to track Britain’s 12 most wanted offenders. According to British media reports, 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 he has been on the run. Before he was jailed in 2006, he had been hiding in Holland and Spain, where he masterminded a drug and money-laundering operation, shipping ecstasy and cocaine into Britain.

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

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

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.

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 and Dominica, as well as the UK.

Evans, a former young businessman of the year in Wales, was brought up in Pontarddulais, Swansea.

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

Cape Argus