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DRUGS BUST: 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

DRUGS BUST: 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

DRUGS BUST: 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

DRUGS BUST: 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

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DRUGS BUST: 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

A TEAM of miscarriage-of-justice lawyers are to fly out to Gran Canaria next weekend to help an Irishman held by Spanish police for 17 months without being charged.

Kenny Coalter, a retired businessman, was wrongly implicated in an international drugs and bullion smuggling operation, according to his friends, simply because he acted the 'Good Samaritan' to members of a drug-smuggling gang by helping fix their yacht.

Mr Coalter (63), who was originally from Co Tyrone but who ran a transport business in Dublin until retiring to Spain and then Gran Canaria, is an engineer by trade and assisted in repairs and other work on a yacht used by members of a gang involved in a €135m cocaine and bullion smuggling operation.

He was arrested by Spanish police in July last year after the seizure on board a yacht off Gran Canaria. Mr Coalter was not on the yacht at the time and he and his family and friends insist he knew nothing of the operation.

The director of the Dublin branch of the international network Innocence Project is travelling to Gran Canaria with two colleagues next weekend and hope to bring Mr Coalter's case.

David Langwallner, head of legal studies at Griffith College in Dublin, who runs the Irish branch of Innocence Project, said he and his team had studied the papers in Mr Coalter's case and found nothing to support his imprisonment.

"When we looked at the documents, we could not find anything whatsoever. We decided the next logical step was to go over there. We want to see Mr Coalter and visit the site where the boat was and meet a Spanish lawyer," he told the Sunday Independent.

Under Spanish law, suspects can be held for up to two or even three years without charge or trial.

Mr Coalter encountered the members of the American gang when they berthed their yacht, the Maid of Orleans, beside his boat and he helped them to carry out repairs.

Last July the Maid of Orleans was intercepted by Spanish customs off Gran Canaria carrying 500kg of cocaine and stolen gold bullion. Mr Coalter, who has no criminal convictions, has been held in a prison in Gran Canaria since then.

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