York fraudster facing extradition was ‘working as a spy and feared being assassinated’

3 Dec 2019 @ 6.35 pm
| Crime

A convicted fraudster facing extradition to Spain over claims he was part of an organised crime gang has told a court he was actually working for the Spanish intelligence service.

Paul Blanchard, 74, from York, allegedly acted as a financial adviser for criminals in Tenerife between 1999 and 2001.

A European Arrest Warrant was issued for his arrest in April 2018 and he appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday to challenge extradition, claiming the warrant was “invalid”.

Blanchard, who was jailed in 2008 over a multi-million-pound fraud, claims he was feeding intelligence to Spanish officials and “feared being assassinated” as a result.

Money laundering

Blanchard says he met with Spanish police. Photograph: Muerte en Hawaii / Wikipedia
It is alleged he was a financial adviser for a criminal organisation operating in Tenerife between 1999 and 2001.

The court heard the group was led by Lebanese-born Mohamed Derbah, who allegedly laundered money through timeshare sales and fraudulent holiday packages.

Blanchard, who at the time was a corporate consultant specialising in offshore services, claims Mr Derbah was one of his clients.

He said when he became aware of Mr Derbah’s alleged unlawful activities he went to the police with the information.

The 74-year-old told the court that Scotland Yard put him in touch with a Spanish intelligence officer in Madrid.

Blanchard, who lived at of St Oswald’s Court, Fulford, claims he met with Spanish intelligence officers in their Madrid headquarters where he agreed to be a witness for their investigation into Mr Derbah.

He said he gave Spanish police evidence including a 20kg package of documents sent from the UK.

Covert phone recordings

Blanchard is appearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court. Photograph: GrimsbyT on Flickr
Phone calls covertly recorded by Blanchard between himself and Spanish police officers were also played to the court.

Blanchard said the police had concerns for his safety and during one of his visits to Tenerife, they provided him with security, the court heard.

When asked what they were concerned about, Blanchard said: “Of getting assassinated by Derbah’s henchmen because he knows I am cooperating with police.”

Terrorists’ names

Blanchard told the court he also gave intel to officers in 2004 about possible terrorist activity, including the names of two people which the following year committed the July 7 bombings in London.

The 74-year-old said his relationship with the Spanish police deteriorated in 2004 after he told other officers in Malaga, southern Spain, about his intel role.

“Within 10 minutes it had completely destroyed everything because I had broken my cover,” he said.

He was later arrested in his York home by North Yorkshire Police for his alleged involvement in the scam.

Blanchard told the court he tried to get the Spanish officials to confirm his role as an intel officer.

The court heard his lawyer also appealed to Spain to have his involvement with intelligence officers confirmed.

“I thought they’d be bound to confirm everything I was saying and what I provided,” Blanchard said.

“They never responded or gave any information whatsoever.”

Asked if he thinks he was treated fairly by the Spanish authorities he said: “Absolutely not, I blame all of this on the Spanish authorities”.

Derbah published a book in 2018 about the alleged criminal gang, and that same year a warrant was issued for Blanchard’s arrest, the court was told.

Mark Summers QC, who is representing Blanchard, said the warrant for his arrest was “invalid”.

“(It is) so obviously and outrageously defective,” he told the court.

The hearing before Judge Ikram continues.