27/01/2015 10:58 GMT | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Missing Ben Needham: Greek Businessman Claims Toddler Was Snatched And Sold By Roma Gypsies

Undated handout photo of a Ben Needham aged 21 months. Ben was last seen 16 years ago, and a digital image of how he would look aged 18 has been produced to coincide with his eighteenth birthday.

A Greek businessman claims missing Ben Needham was snatched and sold by a Roma gypsy family 24 years ago.

The dramatic claim is being taken serious by South Yorkshire Police who have been given £700,000 by the British government to search for Ben, who was 21 months old when he vanished on the island of Kos.

The businessman told the Greek equivalent of BBC's Crimewatch - Alpha's Light at the End of the Tunnel - he knew the name of the family allegedly involved in Ben's abduction.

He said he was passed the name in prison while he was in custody on financial charges relating to his business.

In an email to the Greek show he said the family he names were selling fruit in Kos and 'stole the boy and covered him under boxes of fruit. That's how they were able to leave the island'.

The programme tries to reunite missing families and is broadcast live for three hours across the country and its islands.

The businessman came forward after an appeal on the programme from Yorkshire TV's 'Calendar' producer Mark Witty, who has been involved with the case since Ben's disappearance in July 1991.

Via a website link he answered questions about the investigation and asked for anyone with information to come forward.

Ben's mum Kerry, from Sheffield, was also shown in an interview via the internet which was played to millions of viewers .

The Greek businessman said he had been affected by the recent death of a relative, and knew the pain the Needhams were feeling at the loss of Ben.

More on Parentdish: Missing Ben Needham's mother Kerry becomes a grandmother