Court confiscates record £33m from timeshare swindler

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The Independent Online

Timeshare swindler John "Goldfinger" Palmer was today ordered to pay a record £35 million in confiscation, compensation and costs when he appeared at the Old Bailey.

Palmer, aged 52 from Bath, is appealing against the basic £33,243,811compensation award.

He spoke only to acknowledge his name when he appeared in dock.

Prison authorities had asked for him to be brought into court in handcuffs – but the request was denied by Judge Gerald Gordon.

Palmer was suspected by police of once helping double killer Kenneth Noye flee the country and had ranked alongside the Queen in the 105th slot on the Sunday Times Rich List.

Judge Gerald Gordon ruled that 70 perr cent of Palmer's estimated £47 million assets should be confiscated. It is believed to be the biggest confiscation order to be made in English criminal history.

He also ruled that Palmer should also pay £2,039,899 compensation and £342,429 in costs for his two criminal trials and the complex hearing on his assets.

The judge earlier granted prosecutors powers to investigate Palmer's business empire to identify his assets. He told Palmer today that as he "clearly had the means to pay, I must do all I can to ensure you do".

He will be given three years to pay. The first £21 million will have to be paid within two years.

Palmer is currently serving an eight–year jail term for cheating thousands of Britons who wanted a holiday home in the sun. If he fails to meet the payments, he faces a further 11 years in jail.

He masterminded a massive timeshare fraud on the Canary Islands that made him a fortune.

Nearly 20 years ago, Palmer was cleared of handling proceeds from the £26 million Brink's–Mat bullion raid at Heathrow.

He then went to Tenerife where he built up the multi–million timeshare business which was investigated in depth by police, who accused him of fraud and of being a "serious organised criminal".

Palmer's defence team are to launch an urgent appeal on the confiscation.

They claim the Crown launched its application in the wrong way and had completely misunderstood the law.

But after hearing prosecution arguments, Judge Gordon allowed the confiscation application to go ahead, although he gave defence leave to appeal.

Enforcement proceedings are not expected to commence until after the appeal.

Outside court Palmer's lawyer Giovanni di Stefano said he would appeal every

issue apart from compensation – including Palmer's original convictions and sentence – on a variety of grounds.

"We as lawyers can never predict outcome but we anticipate and sincerely hope that justice will not only be done but be seen to be done regardless of whether he is John Palmer, John Smith or anyone," he said.

If his appeals failed Palmer, would pay, he said.

"Mr Palmer has behaved impeccably and has complied with every court order imposed on him and he will continue to do so.

"If all appeals are dismissed Mr Palmer does not disobey court orders."

He said the criminal confiscation proceedings must be distinguished from the compensation issue.

"He has never had a problem with compensation," said Mr di Stefano.

"Any genuine person that has been affected by people that were employed by the timeshare operation in the indictment period, Mr Palmer has never, ever, ever refused payment, save that they had to be genuine."

He said a "substantial amount" of compensation had already been paid, although he did not know how much.

The lawyer claimed Palmer had been "targeted" by police since the Brink's–Mat case nearly 20 years ago.

Asked if Palmer thought police had always "wanted to get" him since then, he said: "He's not far wrong in that issue."

He said: "The treatment he received when he was first convicted, placing him in a high risk Category A situation is to our minds absolutely incredible.

"We must be reminded that in this country there is a presumption of innocence and we must respect and live by those verdicts and not pick on people and target them.

"Brink's–Mat will always be with him, I'm sad to say that his acquittal has led to a persecution rather than a prosecution."

He cited an application to have Palmer handcuffed.

Asked whether Palmer was upset by the result, he invited journalists to think how they would feel "if you received a gas bill for £33 million".

Paul Martin, a solicitor for Palmer, said: "The grounds of appeal are extensive, they are against conviction and sentence and stretch to 109 pages.

"We are considering further grounds. The appeal will be pursued vigorously and fully."

He said the grounds included the basis on which he was convicted, matters relating to the jury and the evidence presented at trial.

"We are challenging the entirety of the proceedings," he said.

Palmer denied the fraud allegations against him throughout. He maintained he was targeted by police because of his alleged involvement in the smelting down of gold in the Brink's–Mat bullion robbery – of which he was acquitted.

Immediately after he was sentenced in May last year his lawyers say he was sent to the highest security prison and labelled high risk Category A.

Later, defence lawyers successfully applied to have his security category lowered