Accountant who turned informant on gangster John Palmer's former henchman 'should be extradi
A PENSIONER, who claims money laundering charges from Spanish prosecutors are a punishment for him "blowing his cover while acting as an undercover informant" for them should be extradited, a judge has ruled.
Paul Blanchard, 75, (above) could be facing up to 15 years in a Spanish prison following accusations from Spanish prosecutors that are connected to money launderers, international terrorists and a timeshare fraud linked to the former right hand man of late British gangster John "Goldfinger" Palmer.
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Blanchard argued at Westminster Magistrates Court he should not be extradited as the allegations, which date back to from 1999 to 2001, are too old and the request from Spain was an abuse of process because he had gone from being a witness to a suspect after blowing his cover.
Under the codename "Isabella" he provided tape recordings of conversations with his Spanish handlers that confirmed he was supplying information to police on Palmer's former right hand man Mohamed Jamil Derbah.
EXTRADITION: Judge Tan Ikram said Blanchard should face trial in Spain (Law Society)
However, today Deputy Senior District Judge Tan Ikram said they were issues that should be determined by the Spanish court.
Mr Ikram wrote in his judgement: "He clearly has papers and recordings of his dealings with Mr Derbah and the Spanish police from the relevant period. In that respect, he is more fortunate than many defendants, as regards his ability to recall and respond to the allegations made.
"A key part of the requested person (RP’s) argument is that in being treated a witness, he has been denied the safeguards that must be afforded to a person who was a suspect or should have been treated as a suspect.
"He says he approached the authorities when he became aware of Mr Derbah’s unlawful activities and that he assisted the Spanish police in relation to Mr Derbah’s activities and others, unrelated.
"Throughout, he provided the police information, statements and evidence, till his relationship with the police turned sour.
"He argues that there is a real risk that he would not get a fair trial.
"I find, ultimately, that whether the RP should have been treated as a suspect/defendant with the rights of a suspect, can only be determined by the trial court after testing of the evidence.
"Similarly, whether any evidence secured is admissible against him, is also, in my judgment, a matter for the trial court.
"I can properly assume that the RP will receive a fair trial in Spain.
"He will be entitled to argue all the points he makes here at his trial. He can appeal as he has done previously.
"He will get a fair hearing on appeal in the Spanish legal system. He knows that, as he was already successful in his appeal, overturning the issue of the indictment against him."
DEAD: Derbah was John Palmer's henchman before setting up a rival timeshare firm (Spanish Police)
Judge Ikram said he found no evidence of "bad faith" by the Spanish judicial authority.
He added: "It is common ground that the RP came forward voluntarily to give information and co-operated with the Spanish police.
"As per my earlier observation, why he did that might be a matter to be determined by the Spanish trial court.
"There came a time when his status was changed from a witness to suspect. Such a change of position is known here and not, in itself, evidence of bad faith.
"Whether he should have been treated as witness or suspect/defendant is a matter for the trial court.
"I find nothing to suggest bad faith in the extradition request.
"To the contrary, it all points to a bona fide request to a criminal justice system that already has, and will continue to afford him the right to argue the points he makes in these proceedings.
" I am therefore satisfied that it is proportionate and necessary for me to Order the Extradition of the Requested Person, Paul Blanchard to return to Spain."
Extradition will not be immediate and Blanchard said he would appeal the decision to the High Court.
Spain has said no decision will be made on charging Derbah until it has questioned Blanchard further.