The British Connection: Operation Highlander

The British Connection: Operation Highlander

by Tim Daly


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On the face of it, author Tim Daly was an unlikely candidate for undercover agent. Not only had he lived in America for less than a decade, but his strong Scottish accent was unintelligible to many Americans. At age fiftythree, he should have been looking forward to a peaceful retirement rather than a dangerous new career. But when they approached him in 1985, US Customs knew that what he lacked in youth, he more than made up for in experience.

In The British Connection, Daly, a seasoned sailor, provides a firsthand account of the extremely murky underworld of drug deals in a variety of places, including Florida, the Cayman Islands, Mexico, Colombia, Panama, Belize, and Venezuela as he worked as an undercover agent for five years to help bust Central and South American drug cartels. His detailed story tells how he played a major role in operations involving thousands of kilos of cocaine and thousands of pounds of marijuana. Daly recalls hobnobbing with Colombian racketeers, setting up deals with Cubans in Miami and elsewhere, meeting with senior members of the Medellin and Cali Cartels in their own countries-and living to tell about it.

More than a thrilling memoir of action and adventure, The British Connection exposes the chaos and treachery behind the war on drugs from a man who transported drugs around the Carribean and Latin America and mixed with the world's most powerful and ruthless criminals.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781458203823
Publisher: Abbott Press
Publication date: 06/01/2012
Pages: 212
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.48(d)

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Operation Highlander
By Tim Daly

Abbott Press

Copyright © 2012 Tim Daly
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4582-0382-3

Chapter One

On the face of it Tim Daly was an unlikely undercover agent, for a start he was a foreigner, and lived in America for less than a decade. Although English was his native language his strong Clydeside accent was unintelligible to many Americans. Then there was his age at 53 he should have been looking forward a peaceful retirement rather than a dangerous new career. But when they approached him in 1985 U.S Customs knew that what he lacked in youth, he more than made up for in experience


Born in Greenock Scotland into a working class, seafaring family. He left school at 14 changed his age during the war to join the Civilian Royal Navy Patrol Service which escorted Navy and Merchant Navy vessels through the Scottish Islands and Western approaches into the Atlantic. After the war he entered the Royal Navy as a stoker, and over the next Twelve years rose up through the ranks to become a Chief Petty Officer in the Submarine Service. In 1951 he married and soon after had a son and daughter. In 1960 he joined the Merchant Navy as an Engineer, and remained there until 1979 until he was badly injured during a storm in the Pacific Ocean.

He spent six months recuperating in Florida, and began doing odd surveying and advisory jobs for local ship yards. His wife had by this time divorced him. As he liked the Florida lifestyle, he decided to stay put and open his own ship repair yard "Seaport Marine Services" in Tampa ... He came to know the Caribbean like the back of his hand and developed many contacts in the Shipyards of his adopted state. The other great quality that caught the attentions of Custom's agents was his honesty. Much of the time was spent repairing and surveying confiscated vessels for the Government Surplus Authority One particular, large vessel was bought from the Authority, by a friend who planned to turn it into a floating hotel. Whilst doing the conversion, Daly found a huge stash of marijuana in a cleverly concealed, tank, covered by concrete.

He reported his find to the U.S Coastguard, when turn informed the DEA and Customs. This incident earmarked him as a man who could be trusted. Shortly afterwards in 1983, he was approached out of the blue, Michael Millar president of the Virginia based American Development Foundation, who offered to lease him confiscated vessels. It was a curious proposition, because A.D.F was a Government organisation that was supposed to encourage economic development in third world countries. Stranger still, Millar drove around in a large black limousine, hardly the sort of car one might associate with someone in this line of work.

Daly soon learned that A.D, F. had established a considerable commercial empire through other leasing deals, What, He wondered, had all this to with third world development? He began to suspect it was a front for some secret Government operation. At the instructions of A.D.F. and a Pensacola based company called "Ships and Seas", whose directors included a number of Florida state legislature, he made a number of journeys to the Caribbean and Latin America, taking containers back and forth. He was told that the outward bound containers contained frozen chicken, yet, he was forbidden to refrigerate them! He soon discovered that the actual cargo was arms On the return voyage the containers were supposedly empty, but he eventually found out there hidden compartments containing drugs. He was too canny to ask questions: he simply banked his pay cheques.

He came to no harm, but others involved in the same game weren't so lucky. Three of his associates died in suspicious circumstances. Two of them, both boat captains, were found shot dead in their cars; On the Interstate; the official explanation was that they had committed suicide, yet, neither had shown signs of depression. The third was found mangled in a burned out hay baler on a farm. His death was put down as an accident, another was found drowned in Tampa bay.

In 1996, rumours began to spread that the Reagan Government was using "Colonel Oliver North," to orchestrate covert arms supply to the Contras, via, network of front organisations A.D.F. suddenly disappeared, and some of it's directors were eventually jailed.

Although, North was quick to admit his role in the arms deals and secret fund raising, it would be almost a decade before the public discovered that his Contra friends were ferrying drugs back to the U.S. Daly was thoroughly investigated, was allowed to keep his vessels under N.O.O.A And National Marine Fisheries

Daly moved on to the less risky business of running Grouper Boats and fishing trips out of Fort Myers Florida, but the federal authorities had not finished with him. During a night sailing in 1986, his vessel was "bumped" (a supposedly routine stop) by the U.S Coastguard and asked to accompany them to Naples, Florida, where his boat was subjected to a thorough search; the boat was clean, but he was quietly tipped off, that a member of his crew, Steve Foulkes, was on U.S. Coastguard computer, so he was asked to report to the Customs office at Marco Island the following day. Daly couldn't believe that he had drug dealer in his midst, but, unaware of the sting, Foulkes immediately confirmed it. He told Daly that he was impressed by the way he had stood up to the Coastguard and made it clear, he could make himself a lot of money, if he was prepared to deliver drugs to his underworld associates.

Daly visited the Marco Island Customs office the next day and reported Foulke's offer; "so the bump paid off!" He heard a delighted Customs officer tell a colleague. It turned out that Foulkes was part of a very large and ruthless drug running operation headed by an ex -cop from Indiana. Agent Paul Kilcaine asked Daly, "to cultivate Foulkes, accept any offer he might make and report back to Customs". Daly agreed reluctantly, although he hated drugs and was promised a substantial reward; it was made clear, that this would be genuine undercover assignment. He would have to work his way into the confidence of a man, who he knew was a violent psychopath. If he put a foot wrong, he could end up dead.

Fortunately, duping Foulkes proved easy. As a foreigner in his fifties, Daly was, on the face of it, a very unlikely undercover agent, and Foulke's "instincts" were invariably blunted by his huge drink and drug intake. Together they began making routine pick ups in the Thousand Islands area, just off the Florida Everglades in the Gulf of Mexico. Usually, they would go alongside freighters, whose crew dropped off 40lb bales of marijuana.

Before long, Daly got the first warning of the treacherous world into which he was now plunged. Driving with Foulkes from Fort Myers to Naples for a meeting with the gang's bosses, he casually asked, "How the operation had avoided detection". Unaware that he was being taped and trailed by two unmarked Custom car, Foulkes, matter of factly, described how they were paying off the Police. Coastguard, DEA, and Customs.

If he was telling the truth, who could Daly trust? Were the agents in the cars behind taking bribes too? By the time they reached their destination, out at 31 Marina, the second car had left and Daly never saw its occupants again -could they have fled in panic.

Daly reported his concerns to Paul Kilcaine, who was the only agent, he truly respected. Kilcaine filed a report to his superiors, but it made matters worse. They were visited by two officers from Customs_Internal_Affairs Department_in_Miami.

Daly told them "he wanted out", but the visitors ordered that he must continue, and insisted he go wired to the gang leader's house Daly knew through Foulkes that the house was itself wired with counter surveillance equipment, so the mission would be suicidal. He bluntly told the Internal Affairs. Department men what he thought of their crackpot scheme, but they angrily retorted that, if he refused to comply, they would see that his house, land and boats would be confiscated, "his ass would be kicked out of the US"! Since he only had registered alien status, he was in a very weak position, but Kilcaine stood up for him, and in any event, he needn't go wired.

Even so, Kilcaine was hauled over the coals, for not keeping his agent under control. The experience told Daly, that his employers could be as dangerous as the Drug barons. He decided that from now on everyone would be taped.

Customs knew that Daly was too valuable an asset to use only against Foulkes's gang. Besides being a foreigner, he knew that "Caribbean," like the back of his hand; that the area was the epicentre of the drug traffic from Latin America. Each new assignment brought fresh adventures, and fresh doubts about his employers. It was clear that Customs were unable or unwilling to properly protect their agents

His first major operation was coordinated by the Customs office in Fort Myers, which involved shipping eight tons of marijuana from a pick-up off the coast of Venezuela to Florida.

Foulkes's gang was being supplied by the Colombian Medellin cartel. It was to be a so-called controlled delivery, which meant the Customs would discreetly monitor it's progress and trace the drugs to the dealers in the US. The monitoring was supposed to be done, via satellite equipment, but instead of installing state of the art equipment as Daly suggested. They cut corners and used inferior gear.

He set sail over Christmas, accompanied by Foulkes and one of his cronies. About 70 miles off Jamaica, the Loran navigation system failed. Daly was left with no choice but to navigate his way to the island using charts. He eventually moored at Alligator Pond, an area notorious for its drug traffic; he left the crew with the boat and travelled on to Kingston. By Jamaican Defence Force cutter, that had come to investigate his presence; during the trip, he was questioned very thoroughly by the captain of the Cutter, "about what an Englishman was doing on an American Government vessel in Jamaican waters,"? He accepted Daly's reasons however, the J.D.F. Commander of the base had a different view and made it clear, "if he was up to no good, he would throw Daly in jail". Daly promised him, he would stay no longer than was necessary to have his navigational equipment repaired.

Daly contacted Foulke's people in Miami, they weren't too happy, because unbeknown to Daly, they'd put 60 thousand dollars to one of their people up Front, to refurbish the boat, but less than half the money was given to Daly, the rest was handed over to Customs, so the remainder had obviously been pocketed by a corrupt agent. The Fort Myers customs did nothing to help leaving him with no choice, but to secretly fly back to Florida, whilst pretending to the Fort Myers office he was still in Jamaica.

He discreetly met up with Paul Kilcaine, from the Marco Island office, to seek his advice. When he eventually did call at the Fort Myers office, he was alarmed to see a car belonging to a gang member in the parking lot ... When the agents saw him they panicked and quickly ushered him round to the back door, where he couldn't be spotted by their dubious informant.

By the time Daly returned to Alligator Pond, he discovered the crew, had gone on a drinking binge around the beach side bars, running up huge credit bills in the process. They initially paid their debts by selling of some of the boat's fishing gear, but then, began striking deals with the local "Posse" to take back a load of locally produced dope, back to the US. The atmosphere of mutual mistrust was heightened when the representatives of the Florida gang turned up, to find out what happened. To their money, and put the Colombian deal back on course. The gang fell out and the posse suspected a double cross, everyone turned to Daly to sort out the problem, but he was powerless.

The friction eventually spilled over into gun battles, in which, Daly reluctantly took place to save his own skin. After a month he could stand no more. He told the gang, he was going back to Florida to pick up some new equipment, and would return as soon as he could. He never did. Kilcaine agreed with him, that it would be suicidal to return, Fort Myers office had no choice but to abort the mission. Foulkes returned a few weeks later, furious with Daly and threatening to burn his house down, but before he had an opportunity to make good his threat, he was arrested and imprisoned.

Even so, it wasn't safe for Daly to remain in Fort Myers, so he moved back up to Tampa. Kilcaine was very supportive, but it was clear, he would still be required for Government service, He introduced Daly to the Tampa office of the DEA. And told him from now on he would be working for them.

Customs and DEA were supposed to be part of the multi- agency South Florida Task, Force, which was established by George Bush Snr. to fight in the frontline in the war on drugs, also, included the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and tobacco ATF.Daly assumed that the various arms of the Task Force would work together, but he soon realised how naive this was. Although the DEA proved to be the better organised and more professional than Customs, it was clear that competition, rather than cooperation was the order of the day.

Agents jealously guarded their cases and informants, and as a consequence, the two agencies would often be trying to bust the same criminals without each other's knowledge. Before long it became clear that Jamaican experience would not be unique. Time and again during the eight major and numerous minor operations that he undertook over the next few years, he would be left high and dry,without backup from his employers and surviving on his wits alone; and time, and again, his boats would be crewed with "dangerous chancers" whose presence multiplied the risk of already volatile situations.

Working alongside crooks was one thing, but it was quite another, when they also, happened to be informants paid by the federal Authorities, to pass on information.

Unfortunately very few of them were as trustworthy as Daly, or as dedicated to the war on drugs. For most parts they were criminals, who had made a deal with the authorities in order to avoid lengthy prison sentences. It became clear that many were still involved in crime, and was using their "informant status" as a convenient shield against prosecution.

They knew that their supervising agents would have to cover up for them, because they couldn't look like they had screwed up. Worse still, some bragged like Steve Foulkes gang, they were paying off the agents, so the criminal tail was often wagging the government dog.

The cunning crooks were aware of the inter agency rivalry and exploited it to their own ends.Such revelations only served to strengthen Daly's conviction, that he must trust no-one and reveal as little as possible about his true role.

Hair raising situations continued to arise with alarming regularity ... In 1988, for example, he was sent to Haiti, where a dealer called, Dick Carrier had turned whistleblower. After one of the Island's biggest drug barons called T Pierre had seized his boat, plus $100,000.00 of cargo. On arriving, in Haiti he found that T Pierre was not only after Carter's blood, but that he also had government officials and the army in his pocket! Only by employing all his diplomatic skills, was Daly able to get "Carrier, off the island alive"

Even worse had happened earlier in Panama, where a major operation was jeopardised because of a corrupt DEA agent had tipped off his criminal paymasters. Daly's DEA handlers fled to the US in fear, but did not bother to tell him.

Until he received a call from the safety of their office in Tampa. Daly assumed they were down stairs in the same hotel as him. He did not have the luxury of a quick get away by air, because his boat was on the other side of the Panama canal, However as the Drug dealer they were dealing with showed no signs of alarm or that anything was wrong, Daly decided to stay,. And carry on with the operation

It wasn't the only time that he would feel like a sacrificial lamb. In 1997 he was sent to meet with representatives of the Colombian Cali Cartel, who had been established by themselves, as one of the most powerful , criminal gangs in the world. The meeting took place in Cozumel, Mexico; a country where just month earlier, the Cartel had tortured and murdered an undercover D.E.A. agent, Enrico Camarera. Despite this, Daly was able to convince them that he was genuine.


Excerpted from THE BRITISH CONNECTION by Tim Daly Copyright © 2012 by Tim Daly. Excerpted by permission of Abbott Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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