How rogue US Marines helped smuggle £200m of drugs into Highlands
Patrick Lane told how the tough troops were enlisted by his international trafficking gang to help bring 20 tons of cannabis ashore after the haul arrived in a sea loch.
The 12-strong squad - who did not understand the Scottish accent and were told they were in Norway - used hard-rib inflatables to courier the bales of dope from yachts to waiting lorries.
Lane, the former brother-in-law of infamous smuggler Howard "Mr Nice" Marks, has broken his silence 30 years after the massive drugs coup.
He revealed how he and Marks used salvage vessel the Karob to carry the drugs and identifed Loch Linnhe near Fort William as the perfect drop-off point.
They even set up a bogus film production as a decoy.
Lane, 62, said: "We used a hippy contact in California to help finance the deal. It cost us several million to buy the hash then, which was quite a sum.
"We also had a fleet of yachts anchored on Mull. They were normally used for ferrying tourists about so would not attract attention. As a cover, Howard and I wrote a film script based on a short story set in Austria about an unhappy countess living on a castle near a lake.
"But we turned that around so it became a loch in the Highlands."
Lane told how the pair hired top director Peter Whitehead - who had worked on a number of documentaries with stars including the Rolling Stones - and five actors using an offshore firm based in Liberia. The director and cast had no idea what was going on.
Lane said: "We also rented a castle, Conaglen House on Loch Linnhe, for s1000 a week for the filming.
"We had the yachts lying off Mull to pick up the shipment.
"While we waited for it to arrive from Colombia on New Year's Eve we began to prepare for the movie so as not to make locals or the police suspicious.
"At one stage as we waited on the drugs shipment a local police chief even came to our door to ask how we were getting on.
"Once the Karob arrived in Scotland our fleet of yachts sailed up Loch Linnhe to collect the pot.
"Only after the cannabis had been collected did Peter arrive to start filming. As I remember the movie had a bit of success and even won an award in Belgium."
The boats used to ship in the drug cache from Colombia were official props in the movie and Lane and Marks even had the permission of the police in Fort William to do the filming. Had the drug haul been found it would have been the biggest ever seizure in the UK.
On Hogmanay 1979 the cannabis - worth s50million then and around s200million now - was transported on the tourist yachts to the sea loch at the southern end of the Caledonian Canal near Fort William where it was loaded on to lorries and ferried on to England for sale and distribution.
The operation was a success but three months later a ton of the drug was found washed up at Craignure, Mull, after it had fallen overboard in the transfer between the Karob and the yachts.
By then Lane and his team were sunning themselves abroad on the proceeds. The audacious Highland drugs operation is described in a new book called Recollections Of A Racketeer published this month.
It tells the story of Lane's life in the 1960s and 1970s as a major international cannabis smuggler.
He said: "In March 1980 it was reported that a few bales of our haul had been found on a beach near Mull but this was quite common then and it was never traced back to us.
"I do not have any regrets about my past life but it is not something I would do now. We never touched hard drugs and saw ourselves as hippies trying to change the world rather than dealers."
The former chartered accountant, from North London, was eventually caught by drugs officers and spent several years in prison in Miami, Florida, before returning to Britain where he became a successful company director. He has now retired to France.
His brother-in-law Marks is the subject of movie Mr Nice, which will be released this year starring Rhys Ifans.
Marks was married to Lane's sister Judy but they are now divorced.
Yesterday movie director Whitehead, who lives near Northampton, could not be contacted for comment.
However Eric Liknaitzky, who runs the company which distributes his films, said: "He's not interested."
Apr 19th 2009 Norman Silvester