One of the UK’s most-wanted fugitives in Spain is an alleged brutal Scottish gangland chief and drug trafficker nicknamed the “The Iceman” who slipped from the police’s grasp after being arrested in 2020.
Jamie Stevenson was named on Wednesday by the National Crime Agency as one of 12 top-priority criminals believed to be hiding out in Spain, a magnet for British offenders on the run since the late 1970s.
But while the other 11 fugitives have committed serious crimes, Stevenson, 56, is believed to be one of the UK’s most powerful – and dangerous – gangsters.
The NCA is hunting him down in connection with the seizure of a tonne of cocaine found in a freight shipment of bananas at the Port of Dover, southern England, in September 2020 and to the production and supply of 28 million “street valium” tablets seized at a pill factory along the coast in Kent three months earlier. Police also suspect he has links to two arson attacks on buildings in May 2020.
Stevenson was arrested after the pill factory raid – part of a flurry of busts linked to the police’s cracking open of gangland’s Encrochat phone messaging system – but was released on bail and swiftly disappeared off the radar. Police now believe he is hiding out in Barcelona or Alicante.
Named the “The Iceman” by Scottish police but known on the streets as “the Bull” due to his solid build, Stevenson, who has a scar on the left side of his face, grew up in a poor part of Glasgow and has been a figure in Scotland’s organised crime scene for decades.
He was prime suspect in the execution of his former friend and best man at his wedding, Glasgow gang boss Tony McGovern in 2000. In 2007, after one of Scotland’s biggest surveillance operations, he was jailed for 13 years for laundering £1 million in suspected heroin and cocaine trafficking cash, through a taxi firm and the purchase of 55 luxury watches. Police said Stevenson had been the most wanted man in Scotland. The judge called him a major figure in serious crime – although he was released just seven years later in 2013.
“It’s welcome that Police Scotland, the NCA and their Spanish law enforcement partners are hunting down dangerous high-level criminals such as Stevenson,” said Scottish Conservative shadow community safety minister Russell Findlay, a former journalist who co-authored a 2010 book about Stevenson, Iceman: The Rise and Fall of a Crime Lord.
“The offences for which he is wanted demonstrate the sophistication and scale of organised crime in Scotland, which is international in reach and causes huge damage to our communities,” said Findlay.
The NCA’s regional head of investigation for Scotland, Gerry McLean, described Stevenson as “one of Scotland’s most wanted fugitives”.
“He knows we are looking for him in connection with organised crime on both sides of the border. The NCA and Police Scotland will not rest until he is captured. Anyone who is helping him stay on the run will be targeted too,” said McLean.
Police warned members of the public not to approach Stevenson if they see him, but instead contact the relevant authorities.
Of the UK’s 12 most wanted men in Spain, seven are being pursued on suspicion of committing major drug trafficking crimes, involving heroin, cocaine and MDMA.
Peter Walsh, author of Drug War: The Secret History told VICE World News that key UK crime figures are highly likely to be involved in the drugs trade.
“The drug game still attracts the most active and powerful criminals. When the old bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he said, ‘Because that’s where the money is.’ Well for the past 50 years, the money has been in drugs. But to make the most-wanted list, however, most of them tend also to have an aggravating feature, particularly violence or weapons.”
Spain became a popular bolthole for armed robbers and other criminals on the run from the UK police when the two countries had no extradition treaty between 1978 and 1985. When high profile crooks such as Ronnie Knight started settling there, the Costa del Sol in southern Spain became known as the Costa del Crime.
Now the NCA works closely with their counterparts in Spain and last year 25 wanted British fugitives were returned from Spain. Yet the large expat community in Spain, coupled with a sizeable UK criminal fraternity that has developed since the 1980s, means it is still the number one destination for those evading British law.
“Spain is still a great place to disappear, it’s big enough that you won’t stand out, and is full of tourists and expats,” said Walsh. “There are many like-minded criminals to work with, from all over the world, because it’s the European centre for the cocaine trade.” He said to earn a living “most end up continuing criminal activity, which is why a lot of them eventually get caught”.
But if you keep your head down, it is possible to keep out of sight indefinitely, said Walsh. “The notorious Kevin Parle, who is 6ft 6in tall and of distinctive appearance, is a case in point. He has not yet been caught.”