Two Angus fugitives who owe the taxman £109 million have left international law enforcement agencies “running around like the Keystone Cops”.
The HMRC and Interpol investigators still remain one step behind father and son Geoffrey and Gareth Johnson from Forfar who went on the run before a £20 million mobile phone fraud trial in 2014.
In March this year the HMRC ordered the pair to pay back £109m of their ill-gotten gains or 14 years would be added to 10 and 12 year sentences imposed in their absence.
International warrants of arrest were issued but they continued to hide out in plain sight in Tanzania while running a string of businesses.
The Johnsons are now understood to have finally fled their African bolthole but they appear no closer to being brought to justice.
North East Scotland MSP Liam Kerr said: “It seems incredible that this pair have been able to evade the combined might of Interpol and HMRC for so long.
“It is hugely embarrassing for such major international agencies that these fraudsters were hiding out in plain sight while continuing to run a string of businesses.
“To make matters worse, they were tracked down by Scottish journalists when the local police and Interpol investigators were running around like the Keystone Cops with no clue where they were.
“We can only hope that they will eventually be brought to justice.”
The pair were running a plant hire firm with 125 employees in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania where they owned a number of sprawling developments including clubs and restaurants.
They left Dar es Salaam for Iringa and the business was eventually left abandoned with workers put on unspecified leave.
Father and son might have fled Iringa but angry locals are just as keen to track them down.
An HMRC spokesman said: “We continue to work with domestic and international partners to confirm their whereabouts.
“We can’t comment on any business concerns they may have had outside of the UK.”
Gareth Johnson was previously a supporter of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit which is working to reduce lion killing in Tanzania.
WildCRU’s Dr Amy Dickson told The Courier: “We worked briefly with the Johnson Group in Iringa when the project was in its early stages but the support they provided was in-kind through fixing up a vehicle for us rather than any financial support.
“They only supported at that time and have not provided any support since, to us or else in WildCRU, so our relationship with them ended long before the scam emerged, and never involved any financial donations or anything of that nature.
“Many people are trying to track them down – I know some very angry people in Iringa who would love to know where he is.
“They have left Iringa but sadly I don’t know of anyone who would have good leads on Gareth’s whereabouts.”
Interpol were contacted for comment but had not responded.