Robert_Charlton - 6:29 pm on Jun 7, 2012 (gmt 0)
With this in mind I am very interested in removing our artificial backlinks. But our link builder is adamant that if we do this we will be flagged by google and penalized further.
The link builder (or broker), IMO, is arguing more for his own interest than for yours.
You have already been flagged by Google and you have been penalized. As the penalty is algorithmic, only removing the links will remove the penalty... unless you truly believe that there's been a mistake and decide to appeal those errors. By removing links, you won't be penalized further, but you may also be removing links which Google hasn't identified as artificial, and the link builder's network might be further compromised.
Google is playing an interesting game of chess, here. By removing those links, you are indeed confirming for Google that those backlinks were purchased or at least under your control. IMO, if the links came through a broker's network, particularly a publicly advertised network, Google most likely already knows that the links were purchased, though they may not know with absolute certainty precisely who purchased them.
If you (or your link builder) bought the links without going to a broker, Google's ability to identify those links depends on your knowledge of natural patterns and your degree of restraint.
Also to be noted... sites that sell links to numerous people are easier to spot than sites that sell only one link. Sites that will sell a link and sell only one are probably fairly rare.