A convicted fraudster from York is facing extradition to Spain over claims he acted as a financial adviser to criminal gangs.
But he claims the Spanish authorities unlawfully forced him to incriminate himself.
Paul Blanchard, 74, allegedly helped criminals in Tenerife launder and invest their ill-gotten cash between 1999 and 2001.
A European Arrest Warrant was issued in April 2018 but Blanchard is fighting the extradition bid at Westminster Magistrates Court.
He gave statements to the Spanish police in 2001 to help them prosecute the ring leaders. But now he says these statements are now being used to incriminate him almost 20 years later.
Blanchard supplied information on Lebanese-born businessman Mohamed Derbah, who allegedly laundered money through timeshare sales and fraudulent holiday packages.
He now claims that the Spanish authorities are using these statements against him in order to build a stronger case against Derbah and to prosecute him as a co-defendant.
Blanchard, formerly a corporate consultant specialising in offshore services, was jailed in the UK in 2008 for his part in a series of linked frauds.
He admitted his part in a passport fraud, laundering £375,000 and trying to steal £4.3 million from a London bank and transfer it to Spain.
If convicted of the new charges, Blanchard could face up to 15 years in a Spanish jail.
Fear of assassination
At an extradition hearing today (Wednesday), Mark Summers QC, for Blanchard, said his client’s status as a witness was proved by the fact Spanish agents had given him their personal phone numbers to help keep him safe.
He added that one police officer had recommended Blanchard leave Tenerife for fear of an attack or assassination attempt by Derbah.
Mr Summers said there was “overwhelming evidence” that the Spanish police were prepared to “bend the rules” in their investigations.
“This was a decision to throw a witness under the bus to keep the case against a bigger fish (Derbah) alive,” he said.
He said Spain’s extradition request was “infused with bad faith”.
“The Spanish insist that what (Blanchard) did was voluntary,” Mr Summers said.
“There is nothing voluntary about giving a statement when you are a suspect and you are entitled not to speak.”
He said the Spanish had fundamentally and irretrievably breached Article 6 of the Human Rights Act – Blanchard’s right to a fair trial.
Possible terrorist activity
Mr Summers said the case against Blanchard was a final attempt to break the 20-year stalemate with Derbah, who has still not been prosecuted and is understood to be on bail.
At a previous hearing in December, Blanchard said he had handed the Spanish police physical evidence, including a 20kg package of documents sent from the UK.
He also said that on one of his trips to Tenerife, local police were so concerned about his safety they provided him with a security detail.
Blanchard told the court he also gave information to officers in 2004 about possible terrorist activity, including the names of two people who committed the July 7 bombings in London the following year.
He claimed his relationship with the Spanish police deteriorated in 2004 after he told other officers in Malaga, southern Spain, about his role to provide intelligence.
“Within 10 minutes it had completely destroyed everything because I had broken my cover,” he said.
Arrested in York
He was arrested in his York home in 2018 by North Yorkshire Police for his alleged involvement in the scam.
The Spanish police have not corroborated his claims about any intelligence role.
Derbah published a book in 2018 about the alleged criminal gang – the same year the warrant was issued for Blanchard’s arrest, the court was told.
Judge Tan Ikram is due to return his ruling on the extradition request on 4 March.