Suspect in west Cork drug haul arrested


AN ENGLISHMAN wanted by British police in connection with a €440 million drugs seizure off the west Cork coast five years ago has been arrested by police in Portugal following another drug seizure there.

Lee Dryden, from Bermondsey in London, was arrested last week by Portuguese police when they searched a yacht, the Delfin, at Olhao near Faro in the Algarve and found 170kg (375lb) of cocaine following an operation led by the Maritime Analysis and Operation Centre in Lisbon.

British police have been looking for Mr Dryden (49) for more than five years because of his suspected involvement in an attempt to land €440 million worth of cocaine at Dunlough Bay near Mizen Head, on July 2nd, 2007.

Gardaí believe he was part of a British-based drug-smuggling gang which was planning to ship the drugs to the UK after landing the 1.5-tonne consignment at a remote pier in west Cork. It had been shipped from South America on board a catamaran, Lucky Day.

Garda sources believe Mr Dryden was one of two members of the gang who hired cars in Dublin to go to west Cork, and that he was based in Glengarriff from where he would help land the drugs and ship them to the UK.

However, the plan went awry when, after collecting the drugs from the Lucky Day, one of the gang put diesel into the petrol engines of a high-powered rigged inflatable boat, its engines stalled and it overturned in Dunlough Bay.

Three men – Gerard Hagan, Joe Daly and Alan Wells – made it ashore from the boat, with Hagan being arrested after climbing a cliff to safety. Another man, Martin Wanden, was rescued from the sea by the Castletownbere lifeboat and later arrested.

Daly and another member of the gang, Perry Wharrie, were arrested two days later near Schull. Together with Hagan and Wanden, they were later convicted and given sentences totalling 95 years at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

Gardaí, Customs and the Naval Service were all involved in the operation against the traffickers, working with a number of international agencies including the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) in the UK.

Gardaí continued to work with Soca and in 2010 another senior figure in the gang, Joe Daly’s brother Michael Daly, a former drugs squad detective in the London Metropolitan Police, was arrested in Britain and charged over his involvement in the west Cork operation.

Michael Daly, who was already serving an eight-year sentence for another drug offence, pleaded guilty at Blackfriars Crown Court in March 2010 to conspiracy to supply cocaine and was sentenced to 22 years, consecutive to the eight-year sentence.

Another member of the gang, former fireman Alan Wells – who gardaí believe used the alias Charles Goldie while in west Cork – was sentenced to 14 years for his part in the operation. A third accused, John Edney, was acquitted by the jury.

Earlier this year, another Briton, Steven Brown, was extradited from Spain to the UK where he has been charged with conspiracy to import cocaine into the UK on foot of the Dunlough Bay drugs seizure. He is due to go on trial at Southwark Crown Court later this year.

Another person gardaí and British police suspect was involved in the operation, Steven Jackson, took his own life while another man they suspect, Robert Ferguson, remains at large.