SCOTLAND has so many eastern European criminal suspects that the Polish military has been called in to fly them home, the Sunday Express has learned.
Hundreds of overseas fugitives are being caught here and sent home every year with majority coming from Poland, South Africa and the USA.
Earlier this year, there were close to 400 live cases involving 62 different countries – either Scots who had fled abroad or foreign nationals wanted for often serious crimes.
The military flights from Edinburgh Airport – dubbed Con Air after the Hollywood movie – were introduced to keep costs down and cope with the soaring demand.
A Scottish Government report on international criminals, seen by the Sunday Express, states: “To facilitate the increasing number of extraditions to Poland and to reduce costs involved, arrangements have been made for Polish military flights to land at Edinburgh airport.”
Following the introduction of the European Arrest Warrant in 2004, thousands of foreign suspects are being caught and sent home from Britain every year.
Four years ago, the Polish authorities also introduced regular military flights from Biggin Hill airport in Kent to cope with a peak in demand.
An 80-seater Polish military twin-propeller aircraft was sometimes making two flights a week to Warsaw, extraditing suspects in crimes ranging from murder to theft of a chicken. Many of those extradited were returning to Britain within days.
Last night the Scottish Conservatives said it was right for the Polish authorities to foot the bill for the removal of wanted criminals.
Alex Johnstone MSP added: “It stands to reason that the more foreign people who come to live in the UK, the more there are going to be in prison settings.
“The vast majority of Polish migrant workers have been an asset to Scotland, taking jobs many people here have no interest in pursuing.
“But it is important that when crimes are committed, taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill of keeping them in jail and they should serve their sentences in their native country where possible.”
However, the need for military extradition flights reveals the worrying level of international offenders in Scotland.
The Sunday Express can also reveal details of a new Home Office operation to catch foreign offenders who have committed a crime on these shores.
Operation Nexus was introduced by the Metropolitan Police in London and has since been rolled out to Birmingham, Manchester and now north of the Border.
A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “We liaised closely with the Metropolitan Police prior to the roll out of this operation in Scotland in May 2014, to learn from their considerable experience when dealing with offenders who are foreign nationals.
“Police Scotland, in partnership with Home Office Immigration Enforcement Officers, have successfully removed a number of foreign nationals as a direct result of Operation Nexus. There are also a number of pending cases.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said it was an operational matter for the Home Office. The Home Office insisted the flights were under the remit of the National Crime Agency.
The news follows a damning report last week which exposed a staggering failure to deal with the soaring numbers of foreign criminals in Britain.
Home Office officials have lost track of 760 of the 4,200 offenders who had been freed back on to our streets by the end of March 2014 pending their removal.
The report by the National Audit Office said this figure included 58 ‘high harm’ individuals, a category that includes rapists, killers and drug dealers.
Prime Minister David Cameron blamed “obstacles” such as EU legislation on human rights and free movement.
His comments came as the family of murdered schoolgirl Alice Gross gathered for her funeral.
The 14-year-old went missing from her home in Hanwell, west London, in August and her body was found hidden in the River Brent about a month later.
Her suspected killer, Latvian national Arnis Zalkalns, now dead, was a convicted murderer who came to the UK in 2007.