Cork tycoon's lover to be freed after €4m Spanish drugs sting

Ralph Riegel and Ken Foy

SPANISH authorities are expected to release without charge three of the seven Irish, German and British nationals arrested in connection with a €6m cannabis haul.

One of the suspects is gang fixer Alan Buckley (57), who has worked with Ballyfermot crime godfather George 'The Penguin' Mitchell in the past.

Yesterday, Spanish police discovered a further 250 kilos of cannabis on board an Irish yacht, bringing the value of the haul to over €4m.

The Herald has learned that a Spanish magistrate will now fast-track a decision on the case following the recovery of 500kg of cannabis resin from the Irish-registered yacht, Colin Hannah.

The drugs were destined for the Irish market.

The 38ft yacht, which left Cork in July 2010, was boarded by armed Spanish naval personnel at 3.30pm last Thursday off the coast of Cadiz, less than 24 hours after it left a Moroccan port. Two British nationals were arrested on board.

Within two hours, Guardia Civil officers had arrested wealthy Irish businessman Buckley, as well as his girlfriend, Lorna Bowes-Busteed (48), a German national and two further Britons at addresses on the Costa del Sol.

It is now expected that Ms Bowes-Busteed and two Britons will be released without charge over the coming days.


A decision on whether to release or charge Buckley will be taken later this month.

Buckley, from Grange/Douglas in Cork, had a house targeted almost a decade ago by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB).

He is a high-profile figure in Cork, famed for his love of lavish entertaining and his penchant for expensive sports cars.

He operated a Kinsale-based antique store -- and had been living over recent years in a luxurious property outside Carrigaline. One friend said he was a familiar face in Kinsale's renowned gourmet restaurants, and also at sports events in Cork.

Over the past two years, he has largely been based in Marbella, where he has a luxury villa.

Buckley is also a former friend of Edward 'Judd' Scanlon (56) who, in 1999, was handed the heaviest sentence in Irish history for drugs offences.

Scanlon was jailed for 22 years -- but later successfully appealed the sentence. He died in 2006 aged just 56 years. The two men regularly drank together and, for a time, lived just one kilometre away from each other.

The arrests followed a nine-month Spanish police-led 'sting' operation which targeted a major Cork-based crime gang and the importation of cannabis into both Ireland and Britain.

Operation Ciana was launched last December by the Spanish police and gardai with the co-operation of Britain's Special Organised Crime Agency.