Brit grandad sought by Spanish cops over £60m timeshare scam ‘run by Goldfinger’s ex-enforcer’
A BRITISH grandad is fighting extradition over allegations he helped run a £60million mafiastyle timeshare con.
In his defence Paul Blanchard, 73, says he was secretly working for the Spanish secret service fighting terror.
But police claim he was part of a gang led by Mohamed Derbah – once the enforcer for gangster John “Goldfinger” Palmer, who stood trial for the 1983 Brink’s-mat gold robbery.
Palmer and Derbah swindled millions out of tourists who dreamed of holiday homes in the Canary Isles. They fell out in the 1990s sparking a bloody turf war.
Lebanese-born Derbah, 54, set up a rival gang and paid accountant Paul for financial advice.
Paul says he thought it was a “legitimate business” but when Spanish authorities began investigating Derbah, who they suspected of funding militant group Hezbollah, he agreed to help.
He said: “They approached me when I was working for Derbah and I agreed to work with them to fight the funding of international terrorism.”
Derbah and ten others were arrested in 2001 and Paul agreed to give evidence – until the long-running case hit a hitch.
Paul was jailed in the UK for his part in passport fraud, laundering £375,000 and trying to steal £4.3million from a London bank and transfer it to Spain.
He told Sheffield crown court during his 2008 trial he was secretly monitoring the movement of cash for Spanish agents.
He even says he tipped them off about a terror network funded from the UK months before al-qaeda bombed trains in Madrid in 2004 killing 191 people.
He insisted angrily: “If Spain had acted on that information those atrocities may never have happened.”
But Paul said when his trial judge asked Spain to verify his claims it refused.
“Without their corroboration I had no option but to plead guilty. I was abandoned when I needed their help and went to jail for six years as a result.”
Then, last year, he revealed: “North Yorkshire police came to see me and asked on behalf of the Spanish authorities if I was still prepared to testify against Derbah. I said there was no way I would even consider it.” In April a European Arrest Warrant was issued by a Spanish judge in Madrid. A copy seen by the Sunday People alleges Paul was the “financial advisor” behind Derbah’s network – hired because he was expert at offshore banking and knew how to launder millions. It said the gang used “typical mafia techniques” including “threats, extortion and settling of scores” to launder cash, forge credit cards and pervert the course of justice. Paul – facing 15 years in jail if extradited and found guilty – called the accusations “farcical” and said the timing “can hardly be a coincidence”.
He went on “They want to extradite me as a criminal and I have solid evidence that will prove they lied about me.
“The extradition hearing will be embarrassing for the Spanish authorities, who claim they never called me and I never called them.
“I have more than 30 recorded phone conversations with them.”
Gangster Palmer was nicknamed Goldfinger after admitting he helped murderer Kenneth Noye melt Brink’s-mat bullion after the £26million raid in 1983. Palmer fled to Spain after the heist and set up his timeshare empire. He was eventually acquitted of handling stolen goods from the heist but served eight years for timeshare fraud. At one time he was worth £300million, owned a chateau in France and a luxury yacht. He was shot dead by a hitman at his Essex mansion in 2015. Last night North Yorkshire Police confirmed they had “arrested a 73-year-old man from York on behalf of Spanish authorities after a European Arrest Warrant had been issued”.
BLING: Palmer’s boat in Tenerife THE ACCOUNTANT Paul Blanchard says he was fighting terror THE ENFORCER Derbah set up rival Timeshare gang GOLDFINGER Gangster Palmer was worth £300m MURDERER: Kenneth Noye