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Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
Timeshare king jailed for eight years
John Palmer
John Palmer was convicted of conspiracy to defraud
A man who masterminded a massive timeshare fraud targeting people in Northern Ireland and Britain has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

Multi-millionaire John Palmer, 51, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud at the Old Bailey on Friday after a seven-month-long trial.

His ex-girlfriend Christina Ketley, 40, from Brentwood, Essex, was also convicted and will be sentenced in July after pre-sentencing reports.

The court heard how thousands of holidaymakers were cheated out of vast sums in the fraud operated by John Palmer, with the help of Ketley.

Many of the victims were elderly couples with modest means who were promised that timeshares they already owned would be sold off at very high prices if they signed a fresh agreement.

Mary Donnelly from Newtownabbey in County Antrim and Edith Sproule from Londonderry were among those called as witnesses at his trial.

Brinks Mat

The jury failed to agree a verdict on a third defendant, Palmer's nephew Andrew Palmer, and were discharged on Wednesday after spending 23 days in deliberations.


It was clearly a fraud practised on a substantial scale

Judge Gerald Gordon
The prosecution has dropped the case and there will not be a retrial.

John Palmer, from Battlefields, Bath, Somerset, was once acquitted of handling gold bullion from the 1983 Brink's Mat robbery.

He alleged that police had a grudge against him and said he had become a legitimate businessman.

But the court heard that he had established a "very considerable" fraudulent timeshare business in Tenerife.

He was the "pinnacle" of the organisation and knew very well that his salesmen were misleading clients, the jury was told.

'Dominant personality'

Palmer appeared near to tears as he appealed to the judge for leniency before he was sentenced.

He had defended himself throughout and mitigated on his own behalf at the Old Bailey on Wednesday.

"I acknowledge I have a strong, dominant personality, probably from my background. I have always relied on my wits for the benefit of those near and dear to me," he said.

But Judge Gerald Gordon told him that the court had heard from elderly witnesses - many who had been through extreme anxiety because of the fraud.

"It was clearly a fraud practised on a substantial scale," the judge said.

Rich list

Palmer, who ranks 105th in the Sunday Times Rich List with an estimated wealth of 300m, was told he must pay more than 266,000 costs.

He will also face a prosecution claim for compensation and confiscation of any assets which are found to be the proceeds of his crime on 2 July - the same day as Ketley is due to be sentenced.

Palmer started to disagree about the amount claimed in costs, but when he heard it might delay his sentencing, he told the judge: "I am not going to argue about 266,000."

He also asked not to be in court when his former lover is sentenced.

"Christina Ketley was at all times under my influence. I was the dominant partner. You have seen my personality more than any other judge has seen it."

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18 May 01 | UK
The fraud king of Tenerife
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