THE charmed life of master criminal Mickey “The Pimpernel” Green came to an end this week when he passed away aged 77 at his Spanish bolthole.
Green eluded police worldwide for decades while running a drug smuggling operation known as The Octopus because of its extensive tentacles.
He personified the changing face of crime, turning from armed robbery to VAT fraud before becoming an international narco, or drug runner, amassing a £75million fortune.
In his heyday, the flamboyant Londoner was the epitome of a “Sexy Beast” Costa villain — the type of character portrayed by Ray Winstone in the 2000 crime movie of the same name.
Green was described by one associate as the “original gold medallion man with a taste for the booze and birds”.
He was once arrested by the FBI while lounging by a pool with a young woman in a Bel Air mansion in California that had been rented in a false name from Rod Stewart.
At the time of his death, Green was wanted by police forces in France, Ireland, Holland and Morocco.
He was also a top target for British cops for years and eluded them time and again.
Yet despite his fugitive status, Green had lived quite openly for the past 20 years in a luxury hillside villa near Estepona, Spain’s Costa Del Sol.
Green died there in the early hours of Monday, tended by long-term Irish girlfriend Anita, following a six-month battle with skin cancer which few knew about.
One friend said: “He didn’t want people to know he was ill and that was so typical of him as he was very secretive.
“Very few people knew who he even was. He was almost a mythical figure in the underworld.”
The friend said Green was “no longer active” as a criminal, having made his fortune, some of which was rumoured at one point to be buried in the hills near his Spanish home.
He had connections with Colombian cocaine cartels, the Mafia and leading crime families in the UK and Ireland.
But Green remained an enigma, dividing opinion on how he managed to stay free.
Friends maintain he was a canny operator, with bent cops in his pocket helping him to stay one step ahead of the law.
Others suspect Green was a major informant who was given a freedom pass for passing intelligence to law enforcement agencies gleaned from his global criminal connections.
Ex-gangster Fred Foreman, now 88, knew Green while they were on the run together in the 1980s on the Costa Del Sol –– at that time dubbed the Costa del Crime due to the number of criminals it attracted.
Foreman said: “Mickey Green was a mover with fingers in different pies and had plenty of money. He liked the good life and had a conveyor belt of different birds, all good sorts.
“He was very laid back and wasn’t heavy in any way, but he wasn’t a person you really wanted on the firm.
“There were rumours he was an informant because of the way he managed to have it on his toes for so long.
“I don’t think he was a grass and never heard anything to remotely suggest it. I’m sorry to hear he has gone.”
The original medallion man with a taste for booze and birds.. and once rented a mansion from Rod Stewart
Green was born in 1942, in Harrow Weald, Middx, of Irish descent, which was to save him later.
He married at 19 and became a car dealer, though in reality he was already a career criminal. Green led a prolific gang of armed robbers nicknamed The Wembley Mob which netted £1.3million in four years — around £20million today. Their downfall came when gang member Bertie Smalls became Britain’s first supergrass.
Smalls named Green as the team’s leader. When arrested at his Edgware home in North London, Green exploded, telling detectives: “Someone’s lost their bottle.’’
Green was jailed for 18 years in November 1970 for a robbery in February that year of a Security Express van outside a Barclays Bank branch in Ilford, East London.
The raid yielded £237,000, a record at the time for a bank robbery. The bulk of the cash was never found and, according to police, the loot remained under Green’s control.
Three years after his conviction, Green divorced wife Carol and was escorted in handcuffs from Parkhurst Prison to London’s High Court for the uncontested Family Division hearing.
He was released from jail at the end of the 1970s and went straight back to crime, teaming up with Wembley Mob accomplice Ronnie Dark to lead one of the earliest gold krugerrand VAT scams.
They made £5.5million in just six months by flying the gold coins, which were VAT exempt, into the country by private jet, melting them down into ingots then selling them back to the bullion houses, charging them VAT.
Customs moved in on the gang and Green fled to Spain, which then had no extradition treaty with the UK. Green became a leading figure among British villains on the Costa del Crime, where he cut a distinctive figure in his white Rolls-Royce.
He hit the headlines once again in the early Eighties, when he was accused of kidnapping a wealthy businessman.
The case against him flopped and Green continued to build up his drug empire, using Spain as a staging post to run narcotics into Europe from North Africa. But in 1987 he was arrested after Spanish cops seized two tons of hashish.
Green got bail and fled to Morocco, leaving behind 11 power boats used in the drug-running operation.
He moved to France, where cops swooped on his Paris flat and seized gold bullion and cocaine — but missed “The Pimpernel” himself.
Green was later sentenced to 17 years in his absence by a French court and was also given a 20-year sentence in Holland in 1993 for smuggling hashish.
By then Green was living in California and was seen there meeting with figures from the Colombian cocaine cartels and US Mafia.
While there he was linked to a one-ton shipment of cocaine worth £200million which was seized in 1994 by Customs at Birkenhead, Merseyside, after being shipped from South America via Poland.
Soon afterwards the FBI arrested Green in his swimming trunks at the Bel Air house he had rented from Rod Stewart.
He spent ten months in a San Francisco jail and had assets worth £1million seized by the US government, though he later got half back by filing a lawsuit against the investment firm that handed it over to authorities.
He was eventually put on a plane by the Americans for France, but managed his next great escape by using an Irish passport to simply walk off the jet when it made a fuel stop at Shannon airport.
Green, who had dual British and Irish nationality, set up base in a large house in Co Meath and had a waterside penthouse in Dublin where friends and family from the UK visited him.
But his life in Ireland soured in 1995 when he killed father-of-nine and taxi driver Joe White after jumping a red light in his Bentley while drunk.
Green escaped with a £950 fine for dangerous driving and causing Mr White’s death. He was suspected of bribing two witnesses.
The case drew attention to Green’s criminal activities and he hurriedly left Ireland after reportedly learning of a kidnap plot against him by Republican terrorists.
Green went back to Spain, taking with him his then 21-year-old Irish girlfriend Anita, having been assured the earlier cannabis case was no longer a problem.
While in Ireland he had started using the money-laundering services of Michael Michael, a London-based crooked accountant and, unknown to Green, a police informant.
When Michael turned supergrass in 1998, Green was one of the first people he named to Customs.
Michael supplied them with a wealth of details about financial transactions and numerous accounts operated by Green.
The supergrass also claimed he and Green were paying a Scotland Yard detective who was supplying police logs on them and their criminal associates.
Michael told how Green slipped into Britain twice in 1997, with a false passport in the name of Michael Durrant, to hold meetings in top West End hotels with heavyweight drug distributors.
The grass, who ran a bureau de change business to wash criminal money, further alleged that Green was behind the high-profile executions of two senior members of the Adams crime family.
Hitman Gilbert Wynter disappeared in 1998 and his body was never found. Hatton Garden jeweller and money man Solly Nahome was shot dead later that year outside his gated executive home in Southgate, North London.
Before they died, both men had ripped off Green by supplying him with wood instead of cannabis. However, one source said: “The amount involved was less than £100,000. Gilbert and Solly knew Green didn’t have the muscle to do anything about it at that time. They took a liberty but Green had to stomach it.”
A mythical figure in the underworld, helped by bent cops and good lawyers, dogged by rumours he was a grass
Police did not pursue the information on Green and are currently investigating another suspect over the two linked murders.
Green was eventually arrested over Michael’s evidence in February 2000 while staying at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Barcelona. Though Michael’s admissions put away about 40 smaller minnows, four big fish, including Green, evaded the dock.
Customs were forced to drop the case against Green in June 2001 through “insufficient evidence” and he was released from the Madrid jail, where he was held pending extradition.
Green moved back to the Costa del Sol, where he continued to build his criminal fortune, while a stack of 15 outstanding arrest warrants against him gathered dust.
After his funeral on Friday near Marbella, The Pimpernel takes to the grave the secret of how he eluded justice for so long.
But Chief Supt Felix McKenna, of Ireland’s Criminal Assets Bureau, which seized properties worth £600,000 from Green after he fled there, suggested the fugitive did it in part by bribing public officials.
He said: “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 said: “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.’’
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