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Sunday, 25 October 2009

Gangster Paul Bennett was freed from a Portuguese prison after fighting extradition back to the UK

04:29 |

Gangster Paul Bennett was freed from a Portuguese prison after fighting extradition back to the UK. Fugitive Paul Bennett was arrested in June on the Algarve after eight years on the run. But today the 42-year-old from Anfield was a free man after time ran out and Portuguese officials had to let him go.Bennett was wanted by detectives who suspected him of being involved in a con which led to him and associate John Haase being given a royal pardon in 1996.He fled the UK in 1999 after police uncovered a cannabis farm in Manchester.After his arrest at Faro airport he fought the Metropolitan police’s attempts to bring him home. His extradition case and subsequent appeal was heard by both the Supreme and Constitutional courts in Portugal.But before a decision was reached on the second appeal the time limit for keeping Bennett in custody expired and under Portuguese law he was set free. The ruling is seen as a massive blow for the Met who have already charged 58-year-old Haase, originally from Everton, with perverting the course of justice.Bennett was released from prison in Beja but few in Liverpool’s underworld expect him to come back to Merseyside. A Foreign Office spokesman said: “Paul Bennett was released from detention when his custody time limit expired.

“He had appealed against his extradition and under Portuguese law the authorities had no alternative but to let him go free when that time limit was up.”

Bennett and Haase were originally arrested in 1993 by customs officers investigating a massive heroin trafficking plot. The following January they were registered as official informers by HM Customs. It led to two “massive” weapons seizures, including 150 firearms and explosives, being made on Merseyside.After pleading guilty in June 1995 to heroin distribution they were sentenced to 18 years in jail.
But 11 months later they were granted a royal pardon by then home secretary Michael Howard on the advice of officials convinced their “cooperation” over the weapons find was genuine.Haase is one of seven people awaiting trial over allegations he and his criminal contacts planted the weapons.

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