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IT WAS the only international; Author reveals fascinating insights into biggest drugs bust of the '70s.


IT WAS the only international acid bust in the village - but it was a pretty big one.

These days, Llanddewi Brefi - is most famous for the adventures of Little Britain's fat, gay comedy character.

But in the 1970s, the West Wales village was a secluded hang-out for some of the world's biggest rock stars - thanks largely to an underground cottage industry making millions of pounds' worth of mind-bending LSD.

Visitors included Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones - whose hellraising guitarist Keith Richards claimed he'd encountered a whole new repertoire of drugs while on a trip to the sleepy rural village.

But the party came to a sudden and abrupthalt in1977whenpolice swoopedon what turned out to be the world's largest drug ring.

New details of the village's spell as the acid capital of the world are revealed in a book by journalist Lyn Ebenezer, pictured above, inwhich he reveals whowas making andtaking thedrugin the areaandhowthe police's so-called "Operation Julie" managed to arrange the bust.

The author, who was a reporter on the Welsh newspaperYCymro at the time, tells how Llanddewi Brefi became a desired destination for pop stars suchas the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.

They had been invited to the village by local resident David Litvinoff in the 1960s.

"It is pretty certain that Bob Dylan stayed at Litvinoff's house for sixweeks during the summer of 1969, just after he'd been at the Isle of Wight pop festival," said Mr Jenkins "Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones admitted that he'd been to Llanddewi Brefi too and that while staying there he'd used every illegal drug in existence and some which weren't in existence!" However, the Operation Julie book deals mainly with the famous police raid which brought to a grinding halt the enormous drug network, which had produced pure LSD worth millions of pounds in rural Wales.

It was the brainchild of a chemist by the name of Richard Kemp, who lived in a remote farmhouse near nearby Tregaron, with his girlfriend Christine Bott.

Together, they set up a lab in the farmhouse, quietly going about producing some of the purest LSD available anywhere in the world.

The scale of their production was staggering, and for a long time remained under the radar of the police.

Until, that was, a chance accident started the ball rolling towards one of the biggest drug busts the world had ever seen.

Kemp was driving his Range Rover when he crashed into another vehicle, killing the other driver.

The 4x4 was impounded, during which time police discovered traces of hydrazine hydrate - a chemical involved in the production of LSD.

Police started probing Kemp and his contacts - until the fateful day in March 1977 when they brought the whole empire crashing down.

"Thepolice arresteddozensofpeopleand found six million tabs of LSD - the largest stash of illegal drugs ever found," Mr Ebenezer said.

"Morethan800policeofficerstookpartin the operation and 120 peoplewere arrested in total. LSD tabs with a street-value of pounds 100m were discovered.

"This was the largest police case of its kind and brought Llanddewi Brefi, Tregaron and Carno to world attention overnight." The book draws on information from the inquiry that has never previously been released, as well as new interviews with some of the key protagonists, Mr Ebenezer's own memories fromhiswork as a reporter at the time.

"Those arrested were said to have been responsible for90%oftheLSDproducedin Britain and 60% worldwide. That is the official line.

"It will become evident, however, that truth and fiction are still inextricably mixed over 30 years later.

"Depending on which side of the story of Operation Julie you believe, it is either the tale of an ideal thatwent wrong, greed and audacious enterprise on one side and of diligent, selfless and determined police work on the other, or the story of political in-fighting and lasting bitterness. Stories aboundof undiscoveredstashes ofLSDand hidden fortunes.

"There are tales of tip-offs by disgruntled police officers and even a royal connection. There remain many unanswered questions.

"There are, for instance, accusations that statistics were deliberately massaged in order to strengthenthe case for a national drugs squad," said Mr Ebenezer.

"And if chemist Richard Kemp had produced LSD worth pounds 2.5m during his seven years of production, as was alleged, why was it that only pounds 11,000 of his money was ever discovered? "Were the dangers of LSD exaggerated?Muchwasmadeof Kemp's ability to produce the purestLSDin history. Surely, if it was thepurest,was it not also the safest? "After all, the dangers of LSD lie in its impurities. No evidence whatever was producedtoprovethatKemp'sLSDcausedany deaths. "David Litvinoffwas not directly involved with the Julie story, but was very much a part of the drugs scene.

"He attracted many pop stars including the Stones, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and possibly Bob Dylan to his house. Albeit unawareof the fact,hewas the harbinger of the influx of free spirits to the area.

"My motive in writing this book is not to be judgemental.

"Largely it is, rather, a story of how a quiet area of mid Wales was changed completely by in-comers who embraced a different culture and way of life. Yet many of those involved in the LSD conspiracy were accepted by the local community.

"Hadtheynotbeenembraced-orat least tolerated- their illegalventurewouldnever have lasted so long. It is still difficult to find anyone in the Tregaron and Llanddewi Brefi area who will condemn them.

"In fact, they are regarded as likeable rouges, much like the area's own Robin Hood, the 16th-century robber and folk-hero Twm Shn Cati.

"So, even though this book follows the main events of Operation Julie, it is a revised overview.

"It is also the story of rural communities that were changed completely, and remain c o m p l e t e ly changed.

"LSDmay not have changed theworld, as its proponents had hoped it would, but it did, albeit inadvertently, change forever a rural way of life." The book is published by Y Lolfa was launched this week and is available on its website at pounds 9.95 World's biggest LSD factory THE late 1970s saw Operation Julie, which netted some 1.5kg of LSD, enough for 7.5 million 1970s doses of the drug, or up to 20-30 million doses at today's levels.

These were small tablets, or "microdots", of high purity and potency, produced in a remote farmhouse inWales.

The "conspirators" were arrested and jailed in 1978 following an intensive police surveillance operation led by Dick Lee who, along with undercover officers, subsequently resigned from the police.

Although presented as a great success, the operation started almost by accident.

In 1974, Gerald Thomas, a cannabis smuggler earlier thrown out of the group for unreliability, was arrested in Canada and gave the names of Richard Kemp, Christine Bott, and Henry Todd as being involved with "the biggest acid lab in the world".

Kemp and Bott moved toWales where they set up a lab in a remote farmhouse, whereas Todd and Andrew Munro, an inorganic chemist, set up shop in a basement in Seymour Road, London, producing inferior quality LSD in 100[acute accent]g black microdots.

Kemp's bad luck started when his Range Rover was involved in a fatal accident, and was impounded by police.

By chance, Dick Lee was visiting the area, noticed the owner of the vehicle, and found a note with reference to hydrazine hydrate, a chemical used in LSD synthesis.

From that point on Kemp and the cottage were put under surveillance.

Six million tabs of LSD were recovered by the police, the largest haul of drugs ever known.

A squad of 800 detectives were involved.

Some 120 people were arrested throughout the UK and France. Stashes of LSD worth pounds 100m were unearthed.

Over pounds 800,000 in money was discovered hidden in Swiss bank accounts. And 17 defendants were jailed for a total of 170 years.


FLASHBACK: Clockwise, from left: Det Sgt Julie Taylor, who gave her name to Operation Julie in March 1978; Christine Bott at the Aberystwyth agricultural show in 1975; David Litvinoff, who lived at Cefn-bedd, Llanddewi Brefi; and some of the Operation Julie team at the site of the major Tregaron LSD find ROCK ROYALTY: Visitors to the sleepy village of Llanddewi Brefi included Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Keith Richards HIGH SOCIETY: Main image, the cultural revolution of the Sixties led to widespread consumption of mind-expanding drugs like LSD. Above, Penlleinau was Richard Kemp and Christine Bott's home. Operation Julie police officers smashed open the sole entrance with a 14-pound sledge hammer before rummaging through the cottage in search of LSD. Police officers later even considered demolishing Penlleinau stone by stone.
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 29, 2010
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