Spanish gangster sells meth from flat window with blessing of UVF

NewsBy Richard Sullivan
Carlos 'El Gordo' Lopez
Carlos 'El Gordo' Lopez

Cocaine trafficker Carlos Gutierrez Lopez is peddling drugs under the protection of the UVF.

The roly-poly dealer is working for east European organised crime gang known as The Russians from his grubby ground floor flat in the heart of south Belfast.

And we can reveal he has been guaranteed protection after his gangmasters struck a deal with UVF ‘Provost Marshall’ Darren “Lightning” Purdy.

Rarely venturing from his home, he takes regular deliveries of drugs which he dispenses though the living room window of his flat.

If the window, which faces on to the busy Donegall Road, is open and the blinds drawn back, then Carlos is in business.

Users simply approach the window by prior arrangement, a package is passed out and money passed in. The transaction is complete in a matter of seconds, and there is no conversation.

Heroin, cocaine and meth are on the menu at Carlos’ pad.

When the Sunday World came calling, the 54-year-old Spaniard initially denied any involvement in drugs. When pressed he admitted he liked to smoke a joint with his friend.

Dressed in a grubby cardigan and bright blue Bermuda shorts, he also denied working for The Russians but then changed his mind again admitting: “I know them.”

Carlos, known as El Gordo which means ‘Fat One’ in his native language,  then denied any past involvement in drugs until we pointed out he had a conviction for smuggling cocaine into Northern Ireland.

Lopez then pretended he couldn’t speak English.

Our reporter quizzes Carlos 'El Gordo' Lopez 

The Sunday World can reveal he became involved with The Russians when they first moved to Belfast a little more than two years ago.

He was experienced in the Belfast drugs trade, and his local knowledge made him useful to the organised crime gang trying to break into a new city.

His new bosses installed him in the flat at Donegall Mews on the corner of Coolfin Street in the heart of  loyalist south Belfast.

He had been previously living in a hostel after serving a six-year sentence for trying to smuggle over a kilo of cocaine into Northern Ireland in 2008.

The Russians took a foothold in the Village two years ago and were soon in partnership with the UVF.

South Belfast terror chief Eddie “Onions” Rainey struck a deal with the east European mobsters allowing them to run brothels and peddle drugs in return for a steady supply of cocaine.

Their arrival caused tension in the district with elements of the organisation violently opposed the Russians.

There were a number of violent confrontations, shots were fired on a number of occasions and as previously revealed by the Sunday World one gang member had a lucky escape when a booby-trap device attached to the underside of his car fell off before it could be detonated.

An Army bomb disposal unit had to be called to make the device safe.

Carlos was also targeted in a crossbow attack. A bolt fired at the ground floor apartment he still occupies narrowly missed its target.

At the time the incident was described as having been racially motivated, in reality it was as a result of opposition to the presence of the organised crime gang in the south of the city.

The Russians quickly established an effective drug-running operation selling coke, heroin and meth in £25 bags. Business soared as their drugs were of a higher grade than generally on offer in Belfast.

They also set up a lucrative prostitution racket, with a series of brothels across Belfast including one on the Donegall Road, close to Lopes’ flat. He was tasked to keep an eye on the brothel which he could see from the kitchen window of his home.

Punters using the services of the brothel had had their tyres slashed and been verbally abused. The Sunday World understands the brothel in question only ever had one girl working there at any time.

Locked in the house, punters were escorted to the back door, collected and taken back to their cars after their time was up. Clients were charged £75 for half-an-hour £150 for an hour.

Carlos closed up shop after our visit on Friday afternoon, the only activity at the flat was the arrival of two men in a dark-coloured car. They remained inside for a brief time before leaving.

The return of The Russians will cause alarm in the district. They left the area earlier this year after cutting all ties with Rainey and the UVF. But now they are back having cut a deal with Purdy.

Ex-jailbird Purdy has a nine-year prison sentence under his belt after cops raided his home in 2001 and uncovered a bomb-making factory.

Lightning – he earned the nickname because he is so slow – was living in New Mossley and was constructing pipe bombs in a caravan parked outside his house.

Police also recovered a gun, ammunition and a list of names of former republican prisoners.

It is not clear if the deal has been sanctioned by Rainey, but the revelation that UVF leaders continue to be up to their necks in the drugs trade makes a mockery of pledges made by the recently formed Loyalist Communities Council.

The umbrella group announced the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando would step away from criminality.   Rainey took time out from his own drugs business to attend the LCC launch.

Lopez was jailed in 2009 after being caught trying to smuggle half-a-million pounds worth of cocaine into Northern Ireland the previous year.

Lopez wrapped the stash in carbon paper in an attempt to dodge X-ray detection at Belfast International Airport after arriving on a flight from Amsterdam.

During routine questioning, officers became suspicious of his reasons for travel, and a luggage search revealed the cocaine hidden in the lining of his suitcase.

The trafficker thought that by wrapping the coke in carbon it would make the drug invisible to X-ray machines.