Timeshare conman told to repay victims

A FLEECED Suffolk pensioner spoke of his relief today after the man who conned him was ordered to pay back more than £35million – bringing an end to the longest-running fraud case in history.

By Tracey Sparling

A FLEECED Suffolk pensioner spoke of his relief today after the man who conned him was ordered to pay back more than £35million – bringing an end to the longest-running fraud case in history.

It took a massive police probe, which started nine years ago, and two eight-month Old Bailey trials to dismantle John 'Goldfinger' Palmer's crime empire.

The timeshare conman had taken cash from 17,000 victims – including the pensioner from the Ipswich area who doesn't want to be named for fear of repercussions – to become one of Britain's richest men with a fortune of £300million.

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Goldfinger owned a £750,000 yacht, a collection of Porsches and Ferraris, restaurants, a private Lear jet and a fleet of helicopters.

Television sleuth Roger Cook claimed in a TV documentary that Palmer took a £20,000 contract out on him when he exposed the conman.

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Palmer employed teams of slick salesmen on Tenerife to talk holidaymakers into signing for a timeshare at one of his 13 luxury resorts. Victims were told their existing weeks at other timeshare apartments would be sold at a vast profit if they signed on the dotted line.

But on his desk Palmer kept a sign which read: 'Remember the golden rule – he who has the gold makes the rules.'

The sales never materialised and people found themselves contractually-bound to make enormous payments into Palmer's accounts.

The Old Bailey heard 61 heartbreaking accounts of how people, including pensioners and the Suffolk couple who spent their life savings.

But the downfall of the feared crook, nicknamed Goldfinger for smelting Brink-Mat's bullion in a notorious case several years ago, was sealed in a five-minute hearing at the central criminal court in London.

Palmer, 52, from Bath, was told by Judge Gerald Gordon to hand over £33.3million as his proceeds from the fraud, and £342,429 in court costs.

Those were welcome words for the Suffolk pensioners who were conned into buying even more holiday time when he tried to rid himself of his timeshare apartment.

The pensioner told The Evening Star he dipped into his life savings to pay for another week after he was told the company would sell his existing three weeks for him, after a sales presentation in Tenerife.

He agreed to a £5,900 loan and his wife paid a £1,600 deposit on her credit card.

But they had second thoughts and returned two days later, only to be told the paperwork had been done and it was too late.

Back in England they travelled to the company's head office in Brentwood and found what looked like a Nissan hut, and staff would not open the door but talked through a grill.

The pensioner said today: "Some of that money he's been ordered to pay back is mine.

"I'm just relieved it's all over."

His wife added: "We didn't want to go to court in the first place but we had to."

Palmer, who was jailed last year for conspiracy to defraud, has been told that if he doesn't pay the first bill by 2005, he will get another 11 years in prison.

He was also told to pay his victims back a total of £2million within 18 months.

His girlfriend Christina Ketley of Brentwood, Essex was given a two-year suspended sentence after fobbing off angry customers for Palmer.

Five accomplices were also jailed for setting up companies to mask the fraud and keep victims at bay.

Judge Gerald Gordon told Palmer: "Since you clearly have the means to pay, I must do all that I can to make sure you do indeed pay."

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