A YORK man says he is “absolutely overjoyed and relieved” after winning a battle against extradition to Spain over allegations he worked as a financial adviser to criminal gangs.

Convicted fraudster Paul Blanchard, 76, of Fulford, who claims he was working as an undercover agent for Spanish police, was at risk of 15 years in a Spanish jail until the High Court ruled this week that a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued for his arrest in 2018 was “incoherent and defective”.

Judges Rabinder Singh and Karen Steyn granted his application to overturn a ruling made last year that he should go to Spain to face prosecution.

Judge Singh said the "incoherent and fundamentally defective" arrest warrant purported to refer to only one offence but in fact set out five and possibly six separate offences, namely fraud, money-laundering, forgery and fraudulent use of credit cards, threats and coercion, perverting the course of justice and participation in a criminal organisation.

“It is impossible for the reasonable reader to know for what offence or offences the applicant is to be extradited,” he said.

“The confusion is compounded by the fact that it is impossible to work out how the maximum sentence of 15 years specified in the EAW was calculated.”

He said the maximum sentence for an offence of fraud was 12 years but the maximum sentence for participation in a criminal organisation was five years.

Outlining the factual background, he said Blanchard had been an accountant working in Spain for Mohamed Derbah but in 2001 he had brought to the attention of Spanish police a timeshare fraud allegedly being committed by Mr Derbah and provided witness statements which led to his arrest.

He said there was evidence Blanchard actively co-operated with Spanish investigators for the next three years and Blanchard had stated that in 2003 he became a participating undercover state agent for the Spanish police, providing them with information in connection with other cases, but submitted that his cover was accidentally blown in 2004.

“The applicant was then arrested in the UK in relation to other criminal matters,” he said. “At this time, he says that he spoke to Special Branch and MI5, but the Spanish police refused to confirm his status as an informant. After this, the applicant says he ceased co-operating with the Spanish police.”

He said that in 2007, Blanchard’s status in the Spanish investigation was changed from a prosecution witness to a co-defendant and, in 2008, he was indicted in Spain. However, he appealed to the Spanish High Court, which overturned the indictment in 2009.

“In the meantime, in February 2008, the applicant had pleaded guilty in England and Wales to four offences of dishonesty and asked for two others to be taken into consideration. He was sentenced to six-and-a-half years imprisonment. He was released on licence in 2010.”

He said attempts were made by the Spanish authorities between 2010 and 2016 to elicit information from him but in 2017, the UK authorities informed the Spanish authorities that he refused to answer the questions, stating he had worked as an undercover agent for Spanish police.