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Expat In Bacolod

Stephen Bentley - Writer

Operation Julie: Terrorists, Spies and Royalty

Terrorists, Spies and Royalty

There is no emphasis in my book about terrorists, spies or royalty. The first draft of Operation Julie: Inside and Undercover was completed last week. It concentrates on my role as only one of four true undercover cops involved. You can have a peek at the first chapter by clicking here.

It is still a source of amazement to me that this massive investigation is still fresh in so many minds, some thirty-eight years since the conspirators were sentenced to long jail terms.

I use the word “massive.” Here is how one respected British journalist described it –

“It was with these facts in mind that this book first began as an idea in 1978, spawned during one of the world’s largest LSD trials then taking place in Britain. The original intention was an exploration of drugs, guiding the reader through the secret passages of supply and mapping their extent. But in the course of the trial, the Brotherhood of Eternal Love was mentioned. Created in 1966 in California, it was credited with having generated $200 million through an estimated membership of 750 people, and was held responsible for widely distributing LSD and marijuana in the United States. The police described it as a ‘hippie mafia’ and the counter-culture talked softly of a secretive, mystical band whose motives were idealistic. Despite its size and the tantalizing mystery surrounding it, no book had looked at the Brotherhood in any detail. Our project turned from a general study into a concentrated examination of one particular group.” –  The Brotherhood of Eternal Love,   From Flower Power to Hippie Mafia: The Story of the LSD Counterculture, Stewart Tendler and David May.

That book adds some detail about links to espionage:

The ultimate destination for the microdots was Amsterdam, then the major entrepot for the European drug markets. The connection was an Israeli called Isaac Shani, better known to Solomon and Tcharney as Zahi. Aged thirty, Zahi had a reputation for dealing in heroin and LSD to Israel, but based part of his work in London; he had dealings with Todd’s distribution chain as well. On more than one occasion Stark let slip hints of connections with the espionage world. There was the story about working for the Defense Department, and another that he closed down the French operation through a CIA tip. He began work with the Brothers at just the time when they were involved with the Weathermen in the United States. Equally timely, he was in Paris during the May 1968 riots and haunted the radical fringes of London in the early 1970s, when there was yet another curious example of his interest in radicalism/terrorism.

The Solomon mentioned in the excerpt above was an American arrested as part of  Operation Julie and sentenced to a long term of imprisonment. He was somewhat of a conduit between the Brotherhood of Eternal Love and the British connection with Kemp.

The serialization of my book  here attracted one particular reader interested in Solomon. He wrote me a pleasant letter to point out that I was wrong in one of my assertions.

He was adamant that Solomon did have connections to the IRA. I queried this with him out of curiosity and he responded with more information.

It appears that Solomon, Kemp, and Bott paid  my correspondent’s  father a visit. They were keen to buy a property in Anglesey, Wales, no doubt to be used as a front to manufacture LSD. The deal didn’t go through. Solomon wrote to the father expressing regret at the non-completion of the deal. The letter is reproduced below suitably edited to redact the addressee’s details.


operation julie

Letter from David Solomon

It’s interesting as it is dated 1972 and shows Solomon’s address as Randolph Avenue, London W.9 – an address we were aware of during the investigation. It is even more interesting when Solomon refers to his “clan.” To me, that is indicative that he perceived himself as a leader or father figure of the group.

My correspondent went on to explain why he thought I was wrong to exculpate IRA involvement in this drugs conspiracy. He distinctly recalls an IRA volunteer named as James McCann visiting his father in the company of Solomon. A volunteer was a name given to Provisional IRA  terrorists. The Provos, as they were known, were involved in drug running, weapons smuggling and racketeering in order to provide a “war fund” to fight the British. The drug trade was a lucrative source of income. McCann¹ is also mentioned in the Tendler and May book.

He described and witnessed this volunteer going “mental” at his father. To this day, the son doesn’t know why. Solomon calmed the Irishman down and they left.

Sadly, the writer told me that his father died regretting that the Operation Julie investigation had not ‘tied up the loose ends’ and followed up on this IRA link.

Of course, that was one of the by-products of the establishment forcing an end to Dick Lee and the Operation Julie investigation. If we had been permitted to really dig deep then who knows what we may have discovered?

There were, at the time, unsubstantiated links to a now deceased member of the British Royal Family, Mossad, and the CIA.  Certainly a man called Stark² was of great interest to us. Perhaps, therein lies the real reason we were stopped in our tracks? There again, we may have found ourselves in a different league!

The excerpts below from the Tendler and May book give a flavor of the links to terrorists and spies.

Two American journalists were working on a feature for Frendz magazine, an anarchistic offshoot of Rolling Stone, on Belfast violence. A rising Provisional IRA man, James McCann¹, obliged them with copy by trying to firebomb part of Queens University in the town. McCann and the journalists were arrested. The latter were eventually released -but not before a surprising intervention by Stark, who took their London lawyer to lunch at the Oxford and Cambridge Club to discuss their Plight, offering to pay their fees and bail.

In fact the meeting did not lead to anything, but Stark² had taken a great interest in Frendz, which was deeply involved in revolutionary politics and was something of a clearing house at the junction between drugs and the other sides of the underground. Stark’s interest in McCann certainly contributed to an interest in the American himself by MI5. When Lee began searching for Stark, he found the secret service had been there before him. For McCann, having escaped from jail, set up as a cannabis dealer in Holland to supply the IRA with money for guns. One of the men sent by the British to find out more about him was a former Oxford student called Howard Marks. Perhaps it is only coincidence, but Marks, who set up in his own right as a cannabis dealer, was eventually arrested after dealing with the remnants of the Brotherhood in California.

Stark is one of the figures in the story of the Brotherhood whose origins do not link directly or tenuously back to Millbrook. When the DEA were putting together a case against Stark in 1972, they had great difficulty in pinning down his personal details and were never able to get his FBI file from New York. Their reports in California and the details passed on to Europe only showed what Stark was not, not what he actually was.

The silence was finally ended late in 1982. Stark was arrested in Holland on a charge involving 16 kilos of hashish. In the summer of 1983, he was released from custody and thrown out of Holland where he had claimed to be a Lebanese bound for New York. He was arrested on arrival in the United States on a passport violation and DEA agents began to reconstruct the original San Francisco LSD case against him. They found it impossible to do so after such a long time and Stark was released.   In all the autobiographies Stark issued, one thing was missing which could have explained more about his wealth: Stark was a very successful LSD entrepreneur. At one point he worked for a corporation which sold ergotamine tartrate in the United States—a company for which Druce once acted as agent and the one Stark is supposed to have sold his patents to—and a comparison of street prices for LSD and the wholesale price of ergotamine would have made interesting reading for a man out to make a fortune. Or, while at Bellevue, did Stark receive his first LSD as part of a course of treatment? The story about the squalor of his New York apartment is interesting when compared with Sand’s early career in similar circumstances. Perhaps Stark tried to make his own LSD, and the squalor was either a cover or the result.

Exactly when he moved into large-scale production abroad, or why, is not known; but several sources independent of each other report a production run in Rome at the time when he suddenly became wealthy. By the late 1960s, Stark had again moved, to France, embellishing his operations with legitimate chemical companies as a front. He was established in the thirteentharrondissement of Paris with two other Americans, working at night after the regular staff had gone.

The mean little figure arrested by the FBI a few years earlier was now a wealthy man of the world, boasting a fleet of expensive cars and a pleasant home at the better end of Greenwich Village. He may have worn a jellaba for the Brothers, but he was equally comfortable in expensive suits, developing a taste for fine food, particularly caviare. A dabbler in legitimate and illegitimate businesses, he had command of many languages. Gregarious and charming when it suited him, he seemed fascinated by the antics of the young. On the streets during the Paris riots in May 1969 he bumped into a fellow American expatriate. The casual meeting was to have great importance. The two got talking about drugs and the other American, a student at Cambridge, England, mentioned that a drugs expert and writer had settled in the university town. Stark tucked the name away for future reference. David Solomon was a man, like others, who went back to Millbrook days and beyond. It was through David Solomon that Stark met the brilliant English chemist he mentioned to the Brothers. But these were different people from the Brothers, developing in very different circumstances. Their story began in the late 1960s, when the Brothers were growing in strength and Owsley was already an established figure.


Featured Image Credit:  Dave Mathis


  1. CIA and the Contra comes to mind as I read the above. It also makes me wonder how much of the illegal drug market isn’t government sanctioned/controlled. And without the government involvement how much illegal drug trade would there be?

    In my naive youthful days I was a semi lobbyist for a refrigeration organization and I had gotten the ear of a US senator. We were partaking in certain favors at a party. I asked him why didn’t they legalize drugs, then tax it for revenue. He laughed and said the government made more money by keeping it illegal. He also informed me that drug money was heavily being contributed to anti drug political campaigns to keep drugs illegal.

    Can’t wait to read your book 🙂

    • Jerry, nothing and I mean nothing would surprise me when it comes to the world of espionage or political machinations. The book should be ready in two months from now (hopefully). Watch this space 🙂

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