Encrochat 'fugitive' Alex Male arrested in Lisbon after flying in from Turkey on false passport


ONE of the UK’s most wanted men has been arrested after attempting to fly from Lisbon to Istanbul on a fraudulent passport.

Alex Male, 29, was detained at Lisbon Airport on Saturday (April 30) having just arrived on a flight from Turkey, where he had been refused entry a few hours earlier after Turkish border police noticed the document.

Male, of Weston-super-Mare, was added to the NCA’s Most Wanted appeal in January after he went on the run following his arrest by the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SW ROCU) as part of Operation Venetic.

He is believed to have used encrypted communications platform EncroChat to distribute class A drugs across the South West.

He is also accused of money laundering and conspiring to acquire a firearm as part of his drug dealing activity, and was previously on the run in the Marbella area of Spain before moving to Portugal.

Male remains in custody and will now face extradition proceedings.

NCA International Liaison Officer Phil Robinson said: “Male naively believed he could travel across international borders using fraudulent documentation and remain undetected by law enforcement.

“But he underestimated the vigilance and expertise of the Turkish border police, which enabled the Portuguese authorities to act.

“Any arrest of a fugitive is a fantastic result, even more so since Male had only recently been added to our most wanted list. He is wanted in connection with dangerous crimes, which have a devastating impact on communities, so I’m delighted he has been caught.

“We continue to work with our international partners to close the net around fugitives, no matter where they are.”

Detective Inspector Adrian Hawkins, from the SW ROCU, said: “The arrest of Alex Male brings an end to a long period of investigation taking place in the UK and across Europe.

“Male will now be returned to the Criminal Justice System in the UK to face the charges he ran away from. This is an example of international law enforcement working together to ensure justice can be done and demonstrating there is nowhere safe to hide.”

Anyone with information about one of the Most Wanted is urged to call CrimeStoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Alternatively, members of the public can fill out an anonymous online form at the UK charity’s website crimestoppers-uk.org/fugitives.

In April 2020 Dutch and French investigators broke through the encryption of the supposedly secure Encrochat encrypted phone communication platform which was being used by around 60,000 people worldwide, including about 9,000 in the UK.

They allowed police forces across Europe, including in the UK, access to previously sent and new real time messaging between suspected organised crime groups.

It led to hundreds of raids, arrests and seizures of drugs, cash and firearms across the UK in a series of unconnected operations under the banner of the National Crime Agency's Operation Venetic.

Of the more than 1,000 people arrested as part of the wider operation, many were not found in possession of Encrochat devices, meaning several of the prosecutions, are based on remotely-obtained message evidence alone.