Britain’s most wanted fraudster Mark Acklom is on the run with another top fugitive, Sky News has discovered.
Conman Acklom, 44, wanted in the UK for a romance scam, was photographed with a mystery companion at a cafe in Geneva, Switzerland, in May.
A source told us the man was Jose Manuel Costas Estevez, a building contractor who fled Spain after a fraud conviction.
We passed the information to Spanish detectives and they have now confirmed the man is Estevez, 50, who they have been hunting for more than a year.
He faces six years in jail for ripping off government departments in Vigo, northwest Spain, by submitting false invoices up to €11m (£9.9m).
Former Metropolitan Police border control officer Chris Hobbs said the absence of border controls in most of Europe was allowing the two fugitives to travel freely without fear of capture.
He said: If you’ve got no borders you’ve got a huge playground, the whole of Europe in which to operate in, work in and hide in. And obviously you can’t expect local police to know everybody who is wanted in Europe.
So they will know the odds of them actually being detected anywhere in Europe are pretty remote.
I think the nature of their offences suggests they are confident, as they have obviously been confidently conning people out of huge sums of money. They know the odds are stacked against them being recognised.
Acklom has been on the Crimestoppers Most Wanted list for nearly a year, accused of fleecing a woman of her £850,000 life savings.
He met his alleged victim Carolyn Woods, 57, in a clothes shop she was running in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, in 2012.
She said he told her he was millionaire Swiss banker and MI6 agent and that after they fell in love, he promised to marry her.
He allegedly persuaded her to lend him all her savings to ease his cash-flow problems, before fleeing with the money.
It’s not known if Acklom and Estevez knew each other before they went on the run last year.
They were snapped by someone who claimed to be a victim of Acklom and recognised him as he walked past the cafe near Lake Geneva.
At the time British detectives believed Acklom was in Spain, where he had been running a property company.
It is believed the two men were aware the photograph was being taken and appeared to be trying to hide their faces.
Swiss police mounted a surveillance operation after liaising with the UK’s National Crime Agency, but the fugitives did not reappear.
Chris Hobbs said: What are they up to? What are they plotting? Who are they looking to scam in their next operation?
Because at the end of the day they are moving around Europe, probably living quite a nice lifestyle and they will need funds.
The only way they are going to get caught is if they have an accident and end up in hospital, or get arrested for something else. But even that depends on them using their own documents and not false papers.
Spanish police believe Estevez has left Geneva and is in another country, while Acklom’s whereabouts is not known to Avon and Somerset Police, which is investigating him with a European Arrest Warrant.
A force spokesman said: Our search for Mark Acklom continues and, as always, anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call police as soon as possible.
(c) Sky News 2017: Britain and Europe’s most wanted men on the run together