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Friday, 10 August, 2001, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
Timeshare fraudster's companies probed
John Palmer
John Palmer was convicted of conspiracy to defraud
Companies owned by a man who masterminded a massive timeshare fraud can be investigated in an attempt to seize the proceeds from his crime.

Multi-millionaire John Palmer, 51, was found guilty in May of conspiracy to defraud and sentenced to eight years in prison.

After his conviction a hearing was set for October to decide a prosecution application to confiscate assets that could be found to have come from his fraudulent timeshare activities.

On Friday Judge Gerald Gordon gave the go-ahead for prosecution investigators to look into the complex web of companies used in the swindle for evidence.

David Matthew, prosecuting, asked Judge Gordon to order that the "corporate veil" be lifted on a list of Palmer's companies so they could be properly investigated.

Elderly victims

After legal argument, the judge ruled that the companies on the list had been used as a vehicle of fraud "and to a significant extent".

He said: "Palmer himself has benefited from the fraud since he was the ultimate destination of the proceeds - less expenses.

"I therefore have the power in law to lift the corporate veil. The final question is whether having the power to do so I ought to.

"Palmer, on his own evidence is a very wealthy man - the victims of the fraud were not.

"I must consider the purpose behind the law - the removal of the proceeds of crime from those who commit it.

"I have no doubt that having the power to lift the veil I should do so."

Rich list

Palmer, from Battlefields, Bath, Somerset, ranks 105th in the Sunday Times rich list with an estimated wealth of 300m.

Many of the victims of the massive timeshare fraud were elderly couples with modest means.

They were promised that timeshares they already owned would be sold off at very high prices if they signed a fresh agreement.

Palmer was once acquitted of handling gold bullion from the 1983 Brink's Mat robbery.

In his fraud trial he alleged that police had a grudge against him and said he had become a legitimate businessman.

His ex-girlfriend Christina Ketley, 40, from Brentwood, Essex, was also convicted on two counts of conspiracy to defraud.

Both Palmer and Ketley had denied the charges.

See also:

23 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Timeshare king jailed for eight years
18 May 01 | UK
The fraud king of Tenerife
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