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Tuesday, 23 April, 2002, 16:02 GMT 17:02 UK
The fraud king of Tenerife
Tenerife - where John Palmer's empire was based
Tenerife - where John Palmer's empire was based
Sentenced to eight years in a UK jail for what has been called the world's biggest timeshare fraud, John "Goldfinger" Palmer has been told to hand over a record 35m in assets and compensation.

Brought up in the back streets of Solihull, Palmer was a serial truant who left school unable to read or write.

He began his working life as a roofer, before becoming a street trader and going on to run a string of furniture shops.

But Palmer rose to become ranked alongside the Queen in the 105th slot on the Sunday Times Rich List.

Remember the golden rule - he who has the gold makes the rules

Sign on Palmer's desk

He owned a West Country mansion, a French chateau with its own golf course, a 750,000 yacht, a collection of Porsches and Ferarris, restaurants, a private Lear jet and a fleet of the type of turboprop-powered helicopters used by the military.

And on his desk the man with the Midas touch kept a sign that read: "Remember the golden rule - he who has the gold makes the rules."

As a younger man, Palmer was extradited to Britain to face trial for handling gold bullion from the Heathrow Brinks Mat robbery in 1983.

A court heard that he melted down gold at his home, but the jury accepted his story that he did not know where it had come from.

Police also suspected Palmer of helping fellow Brinks Mat villain and M25 "road rage" double killer Kenneth Noye flee the country.

John Palmer: found guilty of timeshare fraud
Palmer began his working life as a roofer

Having made a small fortune, Palmer fled to the Canary Islands and started the timeshare empire that would expand beyond his wildest dreams.

The man they called "the timeshare king" became one of the biggest and most successful landowners on island of Tenerife.

The 51-year-old, of Battlefields, Bath, who admits he has lived by his wits all his life, could have run his resorts as the "honest businessman" he claimed to be.

But consumed by greed, he plotted to milk his customers, in some cases for every peseta they had on them.

See also:

23 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Timeshare king jailed for eight years
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