Foreign murderers found living in Britain
Eighty foreign murder suspects are discovered in Britain each year after evading justice in their homelands, Scotland Yard figures have revealed.
By David Barrett, Home Affairs Correspondent
Last Updated: 10:19PM GMT 31 Jan 2009
They are among 1,000 foreign nationals a year who are targeted by a specialist Metropolitan Police squad after foreign governments apply to have them extradited over offences committed overseas.
The figures will raise concerns about the strength of Britian's border controls. Some of the wanted individuals are convicted criminals due to serve sentences in foreign jails, while others are crime suspects who fled to the UK before they could be brought to justice.
There have been more than 160 extradition requests for murderers or murder suspects in the past two years – 75 last year and 87 the year before. The Scotland Yard unit handles extradition for the whole of England and Wales.
Cases include that of an escaped murderer, Selami Cokaj, who managed to avoid extradition to Albania by claiming asylum in Britain at a late stage.
Cokaj, who is on Interpol's most wanted list after escaping from jail in his homeland in 1997, was discovered living in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.
On two occasions he was arrested for extradition by British officers but freed on bail by magistrates, before his last-minute asylum claim.
Police believe there are further examples of criminals delaying extradition proceedings by claiming refugee status, but the Home Office refused to disclose numbers.
Extradition officers arrested one violent crime suspect, wanted in Belgium for armed carjacking and aggravated burglary, at a north London youth club where he worked with children as young as seven. He is now awaiting an extradition hearing.
Ghislain Mbongi, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, had adopted a false name and taught wrestling at a number of clubs, raising new concerns about the effectiveness of vetting by the Criminal Records Bureau.
Other cases include that of a Lithuanian man, Nerijus Sinkunas, who was wanted in his homeland for allegedly raping a 13-year-old girl. He was traced to Liverpool.
Another Lithuanian tracked down by Scotland Yard detectives, Raimandas Butkevicius, was convicted of murder in his own country but fled his country illegally after being released from jail on licence, and came to live in Luton where he worked in motorway construction. He has now been sent home.
The cases will be highlighted in an edition of ITV's Tonight programme. Pellumb Seferi, the head of Interpol in Tirana, told the programme: “I am very angry because I cannot accept the fact that Selami Cokaj is again free in the United Kingdom because he should be in prison in Albania, in order to serve the sentence given by the Albanian authorities.”
The number of requests from foreign police forces to Scotland Yard has almost doubled in two years, climbing from 538 in 2006 to 1,067 last year.
Part of the increase was due to a large number of applications from the Polish authorities for relatively minor offenders.
Figures show that 65 per cent of the cases involve citizens of the eight eastern European countries, including Poland and Lithuania, which joined the EU in 2004. There were 75 requests for murderers or murder suspects last year, and 87 the year before.
Details of the wide range of foreign criminals who have exploited loopholes in Britain's immigration system follow revelations last month by Ahmet Prenci, Albania's chief of police.
He said 100 criminals from his country, including more than 80 convicted murderers, had come to live in Britain and been granted citizenship. Many used false identities and claimed to be refugees from Kosovo.
Dorothy Hodgson, a pensioner from Burnley, Lancashire, had to have 30 stitches in her face after a violent burglary at her home, during which she fell down the stairs and knocked her head.
Two Latvians were jailed for 32 months each in 2007 after admitting burglary: Vjaceeslavs Skerskans, 29, who was wanted by police in his homeland, and Ramunas Budvyatis, 31, who had served five years there for robbery.
Kathryn Nixon, her daughter, said: “I think that we need to be protected from people like this. There should be laws brought in where these people are checked so that only decent, law-abiding citizens can come an live here in Britain.”
A Home Office spokesman said of the original decision to free Cokaj on bail: “The court can overrule the UK Border Agency's decision to detain someone, and grant immigration bail. That is a decision for the courts.”
She added: “We are determined to remove anyone who does not have a right to be here and if the individual has broken the law we will target them first.
“The UK Border Agency will always attempt to detain dangerous people under our immigration laws.
“In 2008 we deported a record 5,000 foreign criminals, a substantial increase from the 4,200 we deported from Britain the year before.
“We would only give asylum to those in need of international protection.”
UK's Most Wanted is shown on ITV1's Tonight programme at 8pm tomorrow.
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