Interpol nabs fugitives in Somerset West

Interpol nabs fugitives in Somerset West  

Two international fugitives wanted by Interpol have been arrested in the Western Cape in as many months, indicating the province could again become a haven for overseas criminals.

This week German national Michael Schreiber was arrested in Somerset West after Interpol caught up with him. Schreiber is wanted for tax evasion to the tune of 37 million euros. He is also alleged to have smuggled 50kg of gold in Liberia. Dubai police are also looking for him on charges of fraud and forgery.

Hawks spokesman Musa Zondi said Schreiber had been living a quiet life under the radar in Somerset West.
In contrast, British fugitive Darren Finch was arrested at his posh Atlantic seaboard home.

He and his family had been hiding out in South Africa after he skipped bail on 2007 charges of drug smuggling and money laundering.

Police found passports bearing two false identities in his home, a Llandudno property which he was renting for R42 000 a month, according to a court document.

He had made a life for himself under the name Mark Mayne. He had bought two luxury vehicles under that name, his children attended private schools and his business card said he was the owner of a popular Cape Town nightclub.

But it all came to an end when Interpol caught up with him, arresting him at the Chapman's Peak Hotel.
State advocate Dave Damerall said an urgent application had been brought in the Cape High Court on Thursday to have Finch released from custody at Pollsmoor Prison.

Finch was deemed a flight risk when he first appeared in court, and was denied bail. But Damerall said Judge Daniel Dlodlo had reserved judgment, saying he would make a decision by Monday.

Finch is also expected to appear in the Wynberg Magistrate's Court on Monday where his extradition hearing continues.

He is also facing charges of being in the country illegally, and fraud, which will be heard in the Cape Town Magistrate's Court next month.

While Zondi would not be drawn on how many foreign fugitives are thought to be living in Cape Town and its surrounds, he said he believed the city, which was "cosmopolitan with a touch of European feel" appealed to those fugitives who were looking to "assimilate".

"Fugitives go anywhere where they can assume a different identity and Cape Town does seem like a good area to assimilate and blend in," Zondi said.

Alleged Sicilian Mafia boss Vito Palazzolo has lived in the city for years since the 1980s and just a month earlier, Steven Wooding was extradited to his home country, the UK, after being found living in Plettenberg Bay. Wooding was wanted for several child sex-related crimes, including pornography and rape.
In 2002, Charles William Pape, a quiet University of Cape Town academic was arrested in the city. His real name was James Kilgore and he was the last remaining unaccounted for member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, a hippie-era terrorist group in the United States. Kilgore was later sentenced to six years in prison after being extradited to face murder charges. He has since been released on parole.

Other fugitives found in Cape Town include German fugitive Jurgen Harksen who lived in South Africa for nine years before being extradited to Germany to face tax evasion charges.

In evidence during the 2002 bail hearing of another German fugitive, Erwin Heldmann, Harksen was named the contact person for newly arrived fugitives in South Africa as he "knows important people and is au fait with South Africa's legal system".

In a 2006 document on the Institute of Security Studies website, Charles Goredema of the Organised Crime and Money Laundering unit said: "The Western Cape may not have the worst of the fugitives, but it continues to attract reprehensible types.

"Proceeds of crime are less visible, or at least less identifiable. This probably explains why even where the fugitive may not relocate, she/he will register an interest in the country by transferring funds.

"Fund transfers to the Western Cape have been linked to Jurgen Harksen, Chris Kuruneri and Teodoro Nguema."

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