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  • Ben Keith and Olivia Chessell

Why hasn’t Interpol caught the Tinder Swindler?

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

He may have been banned from Tinder, but the Tinder Swindler aka Simon Leviev is free to live a life of luxury at home in Israel, as seen on his recently deleted Instagram account.

Ben Keith and Olivia Chessell

It is estimated that Simon Leviev swindled $10 million dollars from female victims across Europe between 2017-2019. As the recent Netflix documentary shows, many of his victims are still paying off their debts.

So why hasn’t Interpol caught Simon Leviev given all the publicity?

It is frequently reported that in 2019 Shimon Hayut (alias Simon Leviev) was arrested by Interpol in Greece and extradited to Israel where he was wanted for cashing stolen cheques.

In fact, Interpol could never have arrested Leviev, because Interpol itself has no powers to investigate or arrest anyone. Interpol is an organisation for sharing information which police forces around the world use to track alleged fugitives.

Interpol is regularly depicted on-screen as a potential employer of James Bond or Eve Polastri. A slick, international, crime-busting squad that even MI6 and the CIA answer to.

Instead, Interpol is an organisation that promotes cooperation between police forces in 194 different countries, most notably by sharing information about wanted individuals. The Interpol database is used by police forces to name check people at international borders and detain people for the purpose of extradition.

What happened in July 2019 is that Leviev was arrested by Greek police at Athens airport for using a fake passport. Leviev was later extradited to Israel where he was wanted to stand trial for fraud-related offences dating back to 2010. Leviev had changed his name from Shimon Hayut to Simon Leviev and fled the country in 2017. It is likely that there was a Red Notice issued against him by Israel on the Interpol database which Greek police discovered when they ran a name check on arrest.

Yes, you may have seen adverts for the movie ‘Red Notice’ starring Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gail Gadot that was released last year. But that too is not a real depiction.

Rather un-cinematically, a Red Notice is an electronic notification that one of Interpol’s member states is seeking the location, arrest, and possible extradition of a particular person.

So that is why Interpol hasn’t caught the Tinder Swindler.

But what about all those countries that received complaints about Leviev from swindled women? Why haven’t they managed to catch him either?

By the time Leviev was arrested in Greece in 2019, he was under investigation not only in Israel, but also in Sweden, England, Germany, Denmark, and Norway. It is not known whether these other countries currently have, or have ever had, arrest warrants for Leviev. Even if police in these countries do have arrest warrants out for Leviev, there may not be any Interpol notices filed against him. A quick search of Interpol’s public database throws up no Red Notice results. However, only 7,440 of the 69,270 Red Notices currently filed on the Interpol database are available to view by the public.

The reality is, that catching someone across borders is not straightforward and the ever-changing international structure of Leviev’s fraudulent activity makes it even harder for police and prosecutors to bring a case against him.

In May 2018 one of Leviev’s victims, Cecilie Fjellhøy, reported him to the London Metropolitan Police. Cecille Fjellhøy had entered into a romantic relationship with Leviev in 2018, thinking he was the son of a billionaire diamond dealer. While she was in London and he was abroad, Leviev tricked Fjellhøy to take out loans and lie to the banks by making her think he was in grave danger. She did anything she could to help the man she loved survive what she had been led to believe was a life-threatening situation. Fjellhøy took out approximately £23,000 of loans from ten different international banks and gave Leviev access to it all.

That leaves a big problem for the London Metropolitan Police force. Where did the crimes take place? Is it in London where Fjellhøy was when she took out the loans? Is it in all the countries where Leviev spent the money? Or is it in the countries where the banks are based?

Even if it was possible to determine which jurisdiction each crime fell into, it would take substantial money and resources to gather evidence on a case that scale. While swindling a string of women out of $10 million dollars appears on screen to be a staggeringly big crime, the truth is that, once broken down into distinct crimes in separate jurisdictions, anti-fraud police units are left with much bigger fish to fry.

This is, in fact, where proper use of Interpol would help catch him. If all the countries who are investigating him issue Red Notices and extradition requests – the next time he leaves Israel there is a good chance he will be arrested and brought to justice.

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