Fugitive brothers accused of running a multimillion pound organised crime empire may have been kidnapped and executed by a Brazilian drug gang, detectives fear.
Officers on the hunt for brothers James, 48, and Barry Gillespie, 44 – dubbed the Escobar Brothers in Brazil – have told the relatives of the alleged kingpins that they "may have come to harm" while on the run in South America.
Their concerns come as sources close to the siblings say the brothers had a falling-out with gangsters in the crime-ridden city of Fortaleza over protection money.
The Gillespie brothers are linked to a huge drugs and ammunition racket that led Scotland to be flooded with cocaine, and a string of street shootings, and insiders say the pair asked gang leaders to help them stay one step ahead of the authorities after police issued a public appeal for information about their whereabouts.
However it has been claimed that the relationship went sour when local crime chiefs started demanding even more money.
A source told the Daily Record that the brothers had "turned to a group for help and ended up being extorted".
The source added: “They were paying through the nose for protection. The guys wanted too much money.
“People have been told that one of the brothers was held hostage while the other was told to get money. No one has heard anything from either of them for months, not even their closest friends and family.
“They used to keep in touch with a few of their trusted pals who did some running about for them.
"Everyone thinks they’re dead.”
Police Scotland confirmed they have told Gillespie family members that detectives have obtained intelligence about the brothers’ safety. However they have still to trace the pair and continue to ask the public for help.
A spokesman said: “Police Scotland officers have been in contact with the families of James and Barry Gillespie after enquiries have led them to believe that both men may have come to harm.
“However, extensive enquiries to trace both men are continuing and anyone with information about their current whereabouts should contact Police Scotland.”
The Gillespies, of Rutherglen, near Glasgow, have been accused of serious organised crime offences and top Scotland’s most wanted list.
They are being hunted as part of a worldwide probe into weapons smuggling, drug trafficking and money laundering.
The Crimestoppers website says both men are wanted for “directing serious and organised crime throughout the UK and Europe”.
The pair – nicknamed “The Brothers” in Scotland’s underworld – are claimed to have links to a gang that was jailed for a total of 87 years in 2018. The nine-strong mob was locked-up over drugs, firearms, violence and dirty money.
Victim Robert Allan was assaulted after he could not pay a £30,000 drug debt. He was whipped with a thick chain, hit with a metal bar and battered with a 14lb sledgehammer. He was then ordered to strip and sprayed with bleach.
Allan was shot in both knees and dumped at a roundabout in East Kilbride. He was given a new identity and placed on a witness protection programme after agreeing to give evidence against his attackers.
European Arrest Warrants were issued for the Gillespies’ arrests in 2019.
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Customs officers discovered a consignment of the Class A drug worth £31million in the back of a truck registered to a Scottish haulage firm.
They found the stash hidden in a lorry in Montpellier. The vehicle also contained cash registers and coffee
The Gillespies, who describe themselves as property developers, have used aliases to avoid detection, police have said.
James has used the name Stephen Taylor and Barry has pretended to be Eamon Fitzpatrick.
The brothers spent time living in Portugal’s Algarve and Dubai before moving to Brazil.
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