Dozens of UK's most wanted fugitives vanish from global database in Brexit blow

An international rogues’ gallery featuring some of the UK’s most wanted criminals has been removed from the web in a fresh blow to security arrangements after Brexit.

The Interpol list has featured the likes of ‘White Widow’ Samantha Lewthwaite – a suspected terror mastermind who was married to 7/7 bomber Germaine Lindsay – among dozens of fugitives.

Others included billionaire’s son Abdulhak Farouk, wanted for the rape and murder of Norwegian student Martine Vik Magnussen, whose body was found in the basement of a London apartment block in 2008.

The Interpol archive is offline for ‘technical reasons’ at the same time as British law enforcement agencies lose access to the European Schengen Information System II (SIS II) data-sharing system due to the EU departure.

The Red Notices had featured descriptions and pictures of killers, drug traffickers, fugitives and terrorists, which had been openly accessible to anyone around the world, allowing for reports and sightings to be submitted.

Interpol, an international crime-fighting organisation with 194 member countries, told that UK law enforcement would still have access to its private systems.

However, the removal of the public list comes as British police fall back on Interpol after losing access to SIS II, which issues alerts about people, including terrorists returning from Iraq and Syria, and objects of interest such as weapons and cars.

Police chiefs past and present have repeatedly warned about the damage that Britain’s departure from the EU will do to information-sharing regimes with the likes of Europol, the union’s own law enforcement agency.

David Jamieson, Police and Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands, told ‘What we know so far is we have impaired our ability to exchange information rapidly between ourselves and the other twenty-seven European countries. Europol is a good example.

‘I understand there are a number of arrangements in place for after Brexit but we no longer have a part in the decisions.

‘We can only use the systems, which we were the main instigators of, that other people tell us are appropriate. I don’t call that getting your country back.

‘Latvia now has a bigger say in Europol than we do, despite being a country barely bigger than the West Midlands.

‘We’ve dipped out of something that’s highly valuable. It’s preposterous beyond belief.’

Mr Jamieson warned that fast exchanges of data are being replaced by a slower administrative process.

‘The data exchanges we have enjoyed in some areas are just not going to be available in what we call real time,’ he said.

‘So now we’re having to exchange information about some very nasty people; we are talking about rapists, terrorists, serious organised criminals, not people getting parking fines.

‘We will have to go through slow, clunky procedures, whereas the other twenty-seven countries will enjoy the systems we have set up and paid for.

‘We are having to renegotiate bi-lateral agreements and it’s turning the clock back twenty years.

‘The only people to benefit will be the criminals.’

Mr Jamieson echoed warnings from senior police figures about the end of mutual security arrangements, also including the European Arrest Warrant.

Sir Ian Blair, the Former Met Police Commissioner, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘We have lost powers, we have lost the European Arrest Warrant, which we used to send 12,000 suspects back to Europe for trial in the last decade and [to get] 1600 of our own offenders back.

‘We’ve lost all access to the Europe-wide, real-time, interrogatable databases on criminal records, DNA, fingerprints, criminal intelligence…

‘The police have been beating the drum quietly saying this is going to make us less safe. I’m afraid that is what is going to happen.’

The Red Notices had included Lewthwaite, who grew up in Aylesbury, Bucks, before becoming one of the global figureheads of Islamic extremism.

Her Interpol page showed her grinning in a hijab and stated she is wanted by authorities in Kenya for ‘being in possession of explosives’ and ‘conspiracy to commit a felony’.

The Muslim convert, 30, was married to Germaine Lindsay, one of four suicide bombers who struck on July 7, 2005, and she has been linked to the Westgate Mall massacre in Kenya.

Her current whereabouts are unknown.

The list also included Abdulhak who is believed to have fled to Yemen, which does not have an extradition treaty with Britain, after the murder of 23-year-old student Martine Vik Magnussen.

The 33-year-old, thought to live with his wife and two children, is wanted by the Met Police over her death in March 2008.

Launched in the late 1940s, the Interpol list has expanded to cover tens of thousands of people, though only around a third have been made public.

The first major public appeal led to the 2007 capture of sex offender Christopher Paul Neill, a Canadian national who was sentenced in Thailand.  

Interpol told ‘As indicated on the website, the Notices are currently unavailable due to technical maintenance of the system.

‘Restricted, separate access by police to all Red Notices is unaffected by the current regular technical maintenance of the public website.’

There is no indication as to when the list was taken down.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has said Brexit will make the UK ‘one of the safest countries in the world’ with ‘firmer and fairer border controls’ and new security arrangements agreed with the EU.

Streamlined extraditions procedures, fast exchanges of DNA, fingerprint and vehicle registration data and continued transfers of Passenger Name Record data have been cited as examples by the Home Office.

Responding to Mr Jamieson’s comments, a Home Office source said: ‘These are the same tired arguments from people who didn’t want to leave the EU, tried relentlessly to stop us leaving, and now can’t accept we have left. 

‘In suggesting the only reason this country is safe is because of Brussels, David Jamieson will have caused offense to every officer or member of the security service working day and night to protect us. 

‘Instead of attacking the government he should spend more time focusing on the residents of the West Midlands and keeping them safe, or he may find they turf his party out of office.’

New Home Office measures also include foreign criminals sentenced to more than a year in jail being banned from entering the UK and, from July, officials will start receiving advance data on all goods coming from the EU, which was not possible under the existing rules. 

A spokesperson said: ‘We promised to deliver a future security deal with the EU that gives our world-leading law enforcement the tools, access and co-operation they need to keep the public safe – that is what we have delivered.

‘This unprecedented deal allows streamlined extradition arrangements, fast and effective exchange of valuable data and continued co-operation with law enforcement agencies in the EU, so we can protect the public and bring perpetrators to justice.’

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