The Drugs Haul, the Missing Cocaine and the Irish Cop Who Ended Up on Mafia Row; as a Young Donegal Man Peter Daly Left for America Seeking Adventure. What He Got Was Something Far beyond His Imagination

Daily Mail (London), May 16, 2016 | Go to article overview

The Drugs Haul, the Missing Cocaine and the Irish Cop Who Ended Up on Mafia Row; as a Young Donegal Man Peter Daly Left for America Seeking Adventure. What He Got Was Something Far beyond His Imagination


Byline: Tanya Sweeney

DOWN the years, many men have made the careworn leap from rural Ireland to the bright lights of New York City. Yet it's safe to say that few Irish emigrants have had the remarkable experiences of Donegal man Peter Daly.

Nowadays, Peter lives a life of uneventful quietude in his hometown of Ballyshannon, where he is well regarded among the community. Several of the 83-year-old's neighbours are vaguely aware of the central role he played in a 105kg drug bust when he was part of the NYPD's exalted Special Investigations Unit.

Peter, a loving husband and father, was at the pinnacle of his career with the 'princes of the city', as they were called -- but only 100kgs of the stash were surrendered. It kickstarted one of the most notorious cases in New York's history and changed the course of a life that was already, by anyone's yardstick, extraordinary.

From the dizzying heights of the NYPD's top tier Peter fell, until his refusal to rat out his colleagues landed him, after a dramatic cat-and-mouse chase, in Lewisburg's Federal Penitentiary. Peter soon found himself languishing on 'Mafia Row' alongside some of the most notorious gangsters in American history, among them Jimmy Burke, Henry Hill and Charlie Brody.

Before Peter Daly ever set foot on American soil, his wasn't a common or garden emigrant experience. The son of a Ballyshannon GP, he enjoyed a middle-class upbringing and a privileged education. Still, he admits that his only interests at the time were 'football, women and dancing', and at the age of 19, the siren song of America started to call.

The restless teen was hungry for adventure, and spent his first night on the deck of the ship waiting to dock on the Hudson River, dazzled by Manhattan's megawatt skyline.

Initially signing into the US army, Peter received American citizenship when he returned home from Korea in the mid-1950s. In 1961, he joined the police academy and was promptly put on the streets of New York upon graduation, at a time when crime, violence and corruption was rife. Even then, Peter admitted cutting a corner or two on the beat, bunking off to sleep in the coffins at a nearby undertakers during night patrol.

Regardless, his can-do demeanour meant that Peter rose through the ranks to the elite Special Investigations Unit. At the time, New York's criminal underworld was their biggest preoccupation, although the force was already rife with corruption. The job soon put him in the crosshairs of some of the biggest gang lords in the city.

In 1970 came a fateful moment, when Peter and his unit trailed a group to a walk-up apartment in Manhattan.

The unit uncovered the 105 kilos of cocaine and heroin -- it was a seizure that dwarfed even that of the French Connection. Peter and his team were photographed, standing in triumph next to the haul. No-one could have predicted that they had peeled off a few kilos of their own, to be sold on at a later time.

Rudy Giuliani -- who went on to become New York mayor -- was district attorney at the time and was hell-bent on cracking down on the corruption within the NYPD. Peter's unit, initially hailed as heroes for their work, were soon the subject of intense scrutiny. It didn't take long for someone to do the maths and uncover the wrongdoing.

As officials grew suspicious, Peter made his way back to Ireland. Months later, his crimes were revealed to the US courts, thus kick-starting a lengthy and convoluted extradition process in which even Henry Kissinger eventually got involved. It was a spectacular fall from grace for the Ballyshannon man.

Safe from extradition in Ireland, the (very) long arm of the law finally caught up with him in Liverpool, where he briefly went to visit a relative. Dispatched to Pentonville Prison, Peter was brought back to the US in 1975, when he stood in front of a grand jury.

Out of sheer Irish stubbornness, he wouldn't divulge what information he knew about the narcotics haul. …

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