ONE of Britain’s most notorious gangsters has died while hiding out on the Costa del Sol.
Mickey ‘The Pimpernel’ Green lost his life last week following a six-month battle with skin cancer.
The 77-year-old, who evaded capture for decades, passed away in his luxury villa in the hills near Estepona after amassing an €80 million fortune.
The pensioner enjoyed a fruitful criminal career, including running a drug smuggling operation dubbed The Octopus due to its extensive tentacles.
Londoner Green started out by running an armed robbery gang nicknamed The Wembley Mob in the 1960s, which raked in the equivalent of more than €20 million in today’s money over four years.
After a stint in prison beginning in 1970, he immediately returned to crime in the late 1970s, teaming up with mob pal Ronnie Dark to lead one of the first ever gold Krugerrand VAT scams.
The scam saw the pair fly in VAT-free gold coins by private jet. They would then melt them down into ingots before selling them back to the bullion houses and charging them VAT.
Over a period of six months they made more than €6 million.
But when the UK authorities began to close in on the gang, Green did a runner to Spain, which had no extradition treaty with Britain at the time.
He quickly built up his drug empire, moving drugs from North Africa to Europe via the Costa del Sol.
The gangster was often seen cruising around the likes of Puerto Banus in his white Bentley and by the mid 1980s had amassed a fortune.
He and others who moved to Spain with similar career goals are said to have been the inspiration behind Ray Winston’s iconic role in Sexy Beast.
However the Spanish dream was interrupted when police seized two tonnes of hashish in 1987 and cuffed Green before releasing him on bail. He immediately escaped to Morocco and then France, but police were hot on his tail.
When they raided Green’s Paris apartment, they had just missed the great evader, but did manage to seize gold bullion and cocaine.
He would later be convicted to 17 years in France and 20 years in Holland, both in absentia, for drug smuggling.
The Londoner moved to California in the US, where he was often seen meeting with the Colombian cartels and US mafia.
Throughout the 80s and early 90s he moved drug shipments worth tens of millions of euros
One shipment, containing one tonne of cocaine, was worth more than €200 million. That shipment would be seized by UK Customs in Merseyside in 1994, having come from South America via Poland.
The FBI soon cuffed Green as he was laying by the pool in his swimming trunks at the house in Bel Air which he had rented from Rod Stewart – using a false name.
After spending 10 months in a San Francisco lock-up, the US put him on a plane to France, but he amazingly managed to escape during a fuel stop at Shannon airport in Ireland.
The brazen Brit, who had dual Irish and British nationality, casually walked off the jet and used his Irish passport to get through the airport.
After setting up bases in Dublin and Co Meath, Green fled Ireland in the late 90s after hearing of a Republican terrorist plot to kidnap him.
He would head back to Spain with his 21-year-old Irish girlfriend Anita in tow.
But Green was arrested at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Barcelona in 2000 after his accountant and money-launderer for the criminal underworld Michael Michael ratted out his whole client list.
Michael claimed Green visited the UK twice in 1997, using a fake passport in the name of Michael Durrant, before meeting big time drug distributors in fancy hotels in London’s West End.
He also told police Green was responsible for the deaths of two high-ranking members of the Adams crime family.
However Green was released from Madrid jail in 2001 after the UK was forced to drop its case against him due to a lack of sufficient evidence.
He immediately returned to the Costa del Sol and began rebuilding his drug empire.
But what remains a mystery is how he evaded capture for so long, with some accusing him of being a grass.
But others believe he was a master at bribing people in power.
Chief Supt Felix McKenna of Ireland’s Criminal Assets Bureau told the Sun: “He was high into corrupting officialdom.
“That’s part of his forte over all the years when you read about him in police investigations.”
A former criminal associate of Green’s told the Sun: “He did have help from bent coppers. He was also a very shrewd operator and had the money to pay for good lawyers.
“It would not have been very difficult for the Spanish to arrest Green if they had wanted to.
“There will always be some cynics who point the finger and say he got away with it for being a grass.
“But it is far more likely that the things he was wanted for in other countries simply wouldn’t have stood up in a Spanish court, where they have relatively liberal attitudes towards drugs.’’
Green lived in Estepona for the past 20 years and was still with Irish girlfriend Anita when he died.
He is believed to have left his criminal career behind after having made a fortune worth €80 million. His funeral was held near Marbella on Friday.
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