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Tuesday 23 September 2014

'Good Samaritan' still in Spanish jail after year without charge

Published 10/08/2014 | 02:30

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Kenny Coalter was arrested in Gran Canaria following the seizure of 500kg of cocaine, gold and firearms aboard the Maid of Orleans yacht, which belongs to another man
Kenny Coalter was arrested in Gran Canaria following the seizure of 500kg of cocaine, gold and firearms aboard the Maid of Orleans yacht, which belongs to another man
Kenny Coalter
Kenny Coalter

Friends of an Irish 'Good Samaritan' jailed without charge in Gran Canaria for more than a year have accused the Government of ignoring his plight.

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Former businessman Kenny Coalter (63) had helped carry out repairs on a yacht owned by a group of America-based criminals who arrived at the marina in Las Palmas and berthed alongside his yacht last July.

Two American men were subsequently arrested after the ocean-going yacht, The Maid of Orleans, was intercepted by Spanish customs off Gran Canaria carrying 500kg of cocaine and stolen gold bullion, valued together at €135m.

Mr Coalter was arrested at his home in Las Palmas after the drugs and gold were seized by Spanish customs in the Atlantic. But his friends insist he was innocently caught up in the drugs operation.

The Irishman has remained behind bars since his arrest. Under Spanish criminal law, he can be held without charge for up to three years. Mr Coalter initially didn't have a lawyer, but other ex-pat Irish living on the island chipped in together to get him legal representation.

One of these, former Aran Island ferry operator Richard Grant, urged the Irish Government and Amnesty International to help secure his release.

Mr Grant said he has twice written to Taoiseach Enda Kenny about Mr Coalter's plight, but has not received any reply.

He told the Sunday Independent: "I'm angry the Irish Embassy will not give any assistance to an Irish person incarcerated without charges, trial or evidence. You would wonder what they do to
justify their existence. There was a situation here a few weeks ago when some Dutch crew from a tug were arrested on suspicion of smuggling and brought to the same prison as Kenny. When no charges were made by 48 hours, the Dutch embassy had them out and back on their ship as free men."

Describing his friend as a "Good Samaritan type", Mr Grant said the incarceration was causing serious distress for Mr Coalter's 88-year-old mother, who lives in Tyrone.

Mr Grant said he had been trying for nearly 11 months to be allowed to visit his friend in prison. He added: "He is in good shape, as there is a gym in the prison. It is a serious prison.

"He is resolved he will have to stay a lot longer."

Mr Grant accused the Department of Foreign Affairs of showing "no interest" in the jailed Irishman's plight.

He said: "I have also been several times to the Irish Consul in Gran Canaria and he knows Kenny and is genuinely upset by the situation but has no influence over police issues. I would like the Government to take an interest in this, as everyone who knows Kenny knows he is innocent."

He said that Mr Coalter, who trained as a mechanic and electrical engineer, was well known for being very helpful to people who had problems with their boats in Las Palmas.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it would not comment on individual cases when contacted by the Sunday Independent.

However, a spokesperson for the department said it is "providing consular assistance in this case".

Mr Coalter sold his delivery business in west Dublin eight years ago and moved to Spain, where he ran a bar for three years in Mirimar.

He and his wife, Regina, later moved to Las Palmas, where they had been living in a modest house in the hills above the city up until his arrest.

Sunday Independent

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