The Great Eighty-Eight Key Caper

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We hated that scenario. Steve Hall : Graham Ball used to describe us as the footsoldiers.

Then things like Dirtbox started and that became more our type of thing than trying to get in with Robert Elms. There were some brilliant clubs in London, Discotheque and The Wag were really good. It was bang in the middle of the early rap thing, when people were mixing rare groove with Eric B and the Beastie Boys. Then the drug thing came back from Ibiza and that was what tipped the balance. Everyone went there and they all bought an E and everyone did it at the same time.

Very experimental! London was terribly snobby. House music definitely broke down all kinds of barriers. Shoom was very sexually mixed: gays, straights, all sorts of gay palaver going on which some of the kids in there, who were football hooligans, would never have seen. Michael Clark and a Scottish guy called Sandy, who worked for Vivienne Westwood, they had these little urchin kids from south London who would follow them round like flies.

It was like they were mesmerised by these Beautiful Creatures.

Cymon Eckle : Shoom was a magnet for all the hedonists in London. It just pulled you in. We found out about it late January.

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Next week it was Paul McKee, same thing, two hour conversation. So we were into Shoom and away. At the time I thought it was because the anti-Castro exiles in Florida were in favor ol the food plan w'c were trying to set up, and the U. Now I wonder.

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I have enough questions to fill out the dustjacket blurb of a thriller. But the answ-ers aren't in the book, and I guess I'll spend the rest of my life wondering what I really got caught up in. All 1 can say is that, until the moment I was arrested, nothing happened that didn't seem logical and plausible to me.

Ronald Lippert and I w'ere both airplane pilots.

I'd been one of the pilots laid off when TCA switched to the bigger DC-8's, but I got a berth almost immediately as chief pilot for a Toronto-based cargo line called International Air Freighters, flying the so-called "chicken run" to Havana. This was in May, , and from then until the summer of , when the outfit folded. I already knew Lippert to nod to.

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  6. He was a year younger than I I'm thirty-two now' , a dark little buzzard of a man, very slim, a bit flashy perhaps, but good company. And sharp. I never found out much about him except that he'd grown up in Kitchener, had flown on the DFW-line for a while and, probably on the fat DFW-line salary, had obviously acquired a taste for expensive cars, expensive whisky, expensive women and expensive clothes.

    He had a bit of a reputation as an operator. I knew nothing more about his private life, except that it w'as complicated and there was some difficulty about getting a Canadian visa for Elena Diaz, the mulatto chorus girl with the platinum-blonde hair he'd met at the Capri hotel in Havana and married in April. The difficulty seemed to concern her status as his wife. I spent several weeks in Havana and then the discussions — as discussions with Cuban officials often do — petered out. But while I was there I ran into Lippert again. Lippert told me that he and his wife were now living in Miami, but that he was in Havana trying for a job with Cubana airlines.

    He also told me about his food-package idea. The idea struck me as having a lot of merit. At the time of the Cuban missile crisis of October , Pan American Airways, the only commercial carrier flying direct from the U. It all came from anti-Castro refugees in the U. Pan Am flights stopped, of course, on Oct. The need for food in Cuba did not. Furthermore, it was not illegal for anyone in the U.

    It was just that without direct carriers it was practically impossible — or at least prohibicontinued on page Now, neither the British nor the Canadian governments had subscribed to the U. The Cuban exiles would order by package number and pay by cheque or money order.

    The main operation would be conducted from Grand Bahama, B. L, about three hundred and twenty miles from Havana, and there the food would be assembled, the packages made up and delivery carried out to Cuba by a leased aircraft making three flights a week. It would come back empty, because the anti-Castro exiles who would be the customers wanted nothing done that would aid and abet the Cuban government itself.

    There were various legal technicalities to be observed, including Canadian registry for the aircraft. But, Lippert said, the Cuban government had verbally okayed the scheme and it promised to be enormously profitable — more than three thousand dollars a trip, not counting the extra edge that could be made by buying the food in bulk.

    I still think it is a very fine, legitimate, business opportunity. He mentioned that the food - package thing now looked very good, that he had Canadian backers, was checking into bulk food prices in Canada and was only waiting for formal clearance from the Bahamian government to go ahead. He flunked his test, as it turned out, and got quite sulky about it.

    But he was back up to try again in July, and this time he said the food plan had run into difficulties. The Bahamian government had turned him down on grounds, it seemed, of international tact: the plan might be legal, but it might also displease the U. The turndown had cost him his backers. But the scheme was far from dead. The operational base could be moved from the Bahamas right back to Canada and the thing would still show a profit. In fact he had re-costed it. All he needed was new backers. I immediately thought of William Garfat of Aurora, Ont.

    I knew Garfat because he had a private plane that he kept at Malton, and I knew he could be interested in an idea that promised profit, so I arranged a meeting between Garfat. Lippert had already suggested that I might like to sign on as pilot for the project; I also thought that by helping to find backers I might get an equity in the company itself, which was to be called Continental Enterprises.

    At least five percent is not unreasonable as a finder's fee. Rosenberg couldn't make the trip. On Aug. As Lippert had led us to expect, Carlos Rafael seemed familiar with the proposal but he said that as a one-way movement of food. At this point Lippert surprised me by asking if the government would be interested in a plan modified so that the Cuban government got something out of it.

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    He had been emphatic all along that our potential customers in Florida would have nothing to do with the scheme if it involved any quid pro quo with Castro. Lippert surprised me further. We agreed that we should now draw up a really impressive, all-out sales presentation for the Cubans, listing advantages to them and also including character references and business testimonials from Canada.

    During the next three weeks the four of us in Canada worked on this, and on Aug. We stopped off in Miami to pick up Lippert and when we called for him at his hundred-dollar-a-month apartment in Coral Gables he was busy stowing groceries into three cardboard cartons. I happened to know he was carrying some undeclared mail, which he posted after we left the airport, but most foreign nationals going in or out of Cuba these days, myself included.

    The Great Eighty-Eight Key Caper The Great Eighty-Eight Key Caper
    The Great Eighty-Eight Key Caper The Great Eighty-Eight Key Caper
    The Great Eighty-Eight Key Caper The Great Eighty-Eight Key Caper
    The Great Eighty-Eight Key Caper The Great Eighty-Eight Key Caper
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