Ex-con millionaire backs UFO hacker McKinnon
Entrepreneur Duane Jackson hit 30 this year with a business valued at up to £10million.
But he could just as easily have reached this milestone in jail.
The Kashflow CEO has built his accountancy software firm up from nothing over the last six years, and even attracted praise from Microsoft figurehead Bill Gates.
But this success looked like an impossible dream back in 1999, when a 19-year-old Mr Jackson was caught in possession of 6,500 ecstasy pills in Atlanta, Georgia.
Mr Jackson said: "I grew up in children's homes around Canning Town, in an environment in which criminality is a career choice.
"I'd never got into drugs myself, but my best friend was running them back and forth and making lots of money. I realised how easy it was, and thought I'd give it a go myself.
"I didn't know that the gang was under surveillance at the time, and before I knew it I was being arrested."
Mr Jackson spent six weeks at the maximum-security Clayton County Detention Centre before the British police persuaded the United States Drug Enforcement Agency to let him stand trial in the UK.
He was sentenced to five years in prison in 2000, and was released after two and a half years in 2002.
He said: "It was a real fork in my life. In the US, I was looking at spending the next 25 years in prison. My life would have been over."
It is this stark contrast that has led him to add his name to the growing list of figures supporting Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon in his bid to stand trial in the UK.
The Londoner faces a 70-year jail sentence if the British government allow him to be extradited to the US to face charges of hacking into the country's computer systems in search of evidence of UFOs.
London Mayor Boris Johnson, musician Sting and former Middle East hostage Terry Waite have all urged the Crown Prosecution Service to handle the trial of McKinnon, 42.
Mr Jackson said: "It is ridiculous for this harmless man with a UFO obsession to be charged under terrorist legislation. He attacked a US computer while he was physically in the UK.
"If he was looking at a comparable sentence, it wouldn't be such a big deal. But he'd get less than five years here.
"The CPS says it has enough evidence to prosecute him here, and that's what it should be doing."
Mr Jackson himself struggled to find employment after his release, so he started his own company with help from the Prince's Trust. Kashflow produces jargon-free software allowing businesses to monitor costs.
He said: "[Jail] still casts a shadow over my life now. I have a nice big 50in TV which is costing me four or five times more to insure because of something that happened 10 years ago.
"But I owe a lot to the support of the Prince's Trust, and as soon as I take one of these offers for the company, I'll be giving a big wedge of it to them.
"I've had approaches to sell for between £2million and £10million but I'm enjoying what I'm doing too much."
Go to kashflow.co.uk