Police hunting a crook who conned EU farmers out of large sums of cash believe suspect is in Portsmouth or Fareham

DETECTIVES hunting an international conman, running a large-scale fraud ring across Europe, believe their prime suspect may be in Portsmouth.

Friday, 5th June 2020, 6:21 pm
Updated Friday, 5th June 2020, 8:27 pm

Hampshire police issued an urgent appeal to the public in a bid to trace this man, who is wanted in connection with a major fraud probe.

The suspect is believed to be part of a gang that has ripped people off from ‘a number of European countries’ through a fake farming business.

Police have been scarce on details of the crime, which they have been investigating for the past year.

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A picture of the same man, who is wanted by police for a major fraud ring conning EU farmers out of costly farming equipment. Photo: Hampshire police

However, a spokesman said the criminal enterprise centred on the ‘fraudulent advertising of caravans and farming equipment online.’

And with the net closing, investigators believe he may be operating from an HQ in either Portsmouth or Fareham.

A spokesman for Hampshire police said: ‘Customers in a number of European countries have parted with large sums of money after ordering goods online which were then never supplied.

‘Hampshire Constabulary began investigating in June 2019, and the investigation has led our enquiries to the Fareham and Portsmouth areas.

Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP.

‘We are appealing to people in these areas in particular to contact us if they know who this man is’.

The plea has been backed by cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt and Fareham Borough Council’s boss, Councillor Sean Woodward.

Portsmouth North MP Ms Mordaunt, who is the government’s paymaster general, said: ‘Fraud of this nature is awful at the best of times but there is something especially wicked about conning food producers – who have such slim margins – during a time of international crisis.

‘The perpetrator must be brought to justice and I would urge anyone who can help to assist the police in this task.’

Leader of Fareham Borough Council Sean Woodward. Picture: Sarah Standing (090519-7345)

Cllr Woodward, who is a Hampshire county councillor responsible for trading standards, said the police appeal came amid a rise in frauds across the area during lockdown.

Callous crooks, masquerading as Good Samaritans, are conning people trapped in isolation out of their money by offering to buy vital supplies and groceries for them.

Cllr Woodward said: ‘We have certainly seen an upsurge in scams during this period. People are offering to get people’s food for them, taking card details, not turning up with food and emptying people’s bank accounts.

‘Sadly, people are taking advantage of the situation. It's important that these tricksters are brought to book.’

Speaking of the latest appeal from police, Cllr Woodward added: ‘I would certainly urge people to get in touch with police if they have any information about this man.’

Two pictures, both of the same suspect, have been released by police.

They show a white man with a dark beard. One image shows the suspect with a longer fringe, while the other, he is pictured with shorter hair.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101, quoting 44190222873.

Alternatively, people can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111, or via their anonymous online form at crimestoppers-uk.org

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