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The Mirror November 2014

November 15, 2014

Former UK’s most wanted goes straight with legal fixer firm on Costa del Sol

Former convict Jason Coghlan has turned his back on crime to build up a unique business on the Costa del Sol finding top-class lawyers for Brits who find themselves on the wrong side of the law

Jason Coghlan has left behind a life of crime to build up a successful company that links British suspects with top-quality lawyers

HE was once one of the UK’s most wanted men after escaping from the dock during his trial for armed robbery.

But now former convict Jason Coghlan – who spent 12 years in one of Britain’s toughest prisons – has made a fresh start.

He has turned his back on crime and is now working as a legal fixer on the Costa del Sol.

Four years ago Jason set up a legal firm with the aim of putting British criminals who found themselves in trouble with the law in touch with top-quality Spanish lawyers.

He said: “The gangsters on the Costa del Sol are significantly more comfortable trusting me, a man they’ve known for many years, either in person or by reputation, rather than some Spanish lawyer whose name they couldn’t even pronounce.”

And the venture has proved such a success that he has now opened branches of his company, JaCogLaw, in Portugal and Thailand.

Jason, originally from Manchester, set up the firm after finding himself locked up in the tough Alhauran prison, near Malaga, facing charges of extortion.

He said: “I spent 10 months inside and I was shocked at the lack of representation for foreigners.

“The local lawyers and judges all seemed to have a ‘tough luck’ attitude towards us. The only good thing they seemed good at was demanding money on a rolling ad hoc basis.”

After fighting his case through the Spanish courts and securing his release he began canvassing for Spanish law firms who could represent his clients.

While he does not claim to be a lawyer himself, he does have a lot of experience of criminal legal systems, both in Britain and Spain.

He said: “For many years I plied my trade as a villain, gangster, call it what you want, but through this I found a way to turn all the negativity into something positive.

“I make sure they’re represented properly and handle the translation issues, but because of my background I can talk their language.”

Since setting up the company Jason, 44, has seen a steady stream of customers approaching him for help after landing in trouble on the “Costa del Crime”.

His caseload has included numerous suspected drug smugglers bringing cannabis into Europe from Morocco.

He said: “Most of drugs coming into Europe come via Africa, especially Morocco. Corruption, slack policing methods and powerful well-equipped gangsters, all manifest in an ideal narcotics opportunity.”

One such case involved 13 Moroccan men arrested by the coastguard and accused of transporting 16,000 kilos of cannabis for Spanish, Dutch and Irish cartels based in Malaga.

At the same time two Irish men were arrested after being found with Mercedes Sprinter van and an industrial unit on the outskirts of Malaga, which was full of wicker furniture.

Numbers on their previously unused phone matched those on the Moroccan vessel, although the men claimed they were expecting delivery of furniture to export back to the UK.

A change in Spanish law meant that if suspects were held over alleged trafficking of drugs in international waters, a Spanish court would not prosecute foreigners but only Spanish nationals.

This led to the 13 Moroccans and the two Irish suspects all being released.

Jason Coghlan in Marbella where he has a steady stream of customers

Another case saw JaCogLaw challenge the strength of a European Arrest Warrant where the UK police wanted to extradite a man from Spain.

He said: “The whole point of EAW is so member EU states can dispense with costly and expensive extradition cases.

“But a standard police trick when applying to courts is to raise the level of charge from one that would not cross the EAW threshold to one that is more significant.”

Jason claimed his client was threatened with extradition for alleged money laundering, when in his view, the worst charge he could face was one of handling stolen money.

After instructing lawyers to fight the EAW in Malaga court – Jason flew back to the UK to meet the police dealing with the case.

He said he warned them to drop the false allegations – and if they weren’t withdrawn he would allow his client to be repatriated and then apply for a directions hearing in front of a judge to tell them of his suspicions. The case was quickly dropped.

The firm is also currently representing Lee Aldhouse, originally from Birmingham, who was the first Brit to ever be extradited from the UK to Thailand.

Nicknamed “Pitbull” the ex-kickboxer was jailed for 25 years after stabbing an American marine to death following a bar fight.

He has now contacted Jason’s firm to try to secure a move back to a British prison so he can see out his sentence here.

The firm was also recently contacted by the families of two friends of Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, who were murdered on Koh Toa in September.

The Thai authorities had refused the friends of the tragic couple permission to fly following the tragic murders, so their families contacted JaCogLaw for help.

Speaking from his home in Malaga, Jason said: “It is hard to describe how bad the legal service is out here for foreigners. I’m not pretending to be a lawyer, I’m just a good case administrator.”

Explaining his chequered past Jason freely admits he was arrested in 1999 for a post office robbery.

When he appeared before Trafford Magistrates he fooled his guards into believing he needed crutches for a leg injury – but when in the dock he vaulted to freedom and spent two years on the run.

After being arrested a fortnight later he was classed as a double A high-risk prisoner and served his time in some of Britain’s maximum security prisons.

While inside he taught himself law and helped other inmates on their cases and appeals.

He got the idea for his current business while locked up in Spain – where he says his designated lawyer only visited him once.

He now works with top-quality Spanish lawyers, such as Antonio Lors, of Lawbird, and Luis Brana, who helped secure Jason’s release when he was locked up in Spain.

Article from The Mirror, 15 November, 2014