‘Debt-ridden drug addict’ arrested in operation against East Belfast UVF
An Army veteran says he was forced to turn his house into a cocaine factory for criminals to pay off spiralling debts caused by his addiction.
Gerard Taylor is now sweating over a possible jail term after pleading guilty to being concerned in the supply of drugs.
But the 50-year-old, who will be sentenced next month, denies ever operating the hydraulic press used to package cocaine which was found in his east Belfast home.
He says he merely agreed to store it to pay off his mounting debts.
Taylor, who has confessed to being involved in the supply of drugs, was arrested in April 2020 in a Paramilitary Crime Task Force operation targeting the East Belfast UVF.
When he appeared in Antrim Crown Court last Thursday for a pre-sentence hearing, there was no mention of the terror gang.
It was revealed how he told police during interview that he was acting under “duress”, but now accepted that he was acting under “instruction”.
Taylor was not in his Chobham Street property when cops, following intelligence reports, broke down the door and discovered the press and a 2kg bag of benzocaine — a cocaine bulking agent.
A defence lawyer said: “The defendant made full admissions. He brought it (the press) into his home, but didn’t use it.”
The court then heard how Taylor was a recovering cocaine addict who had fallen into debt to dealers and as a way of paying them off, had “opened his home” to them.
It was also revealed that he joined the Army aged 16, serving without incident until he left around 2004. After that he worked in shipyards in England before moving to Belfast.
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) led to Taylor becoming addicted to alcohol and drugs, and a massive heart attack that followed — which put him in a coma for two weeks — means he is no longer able to work.
After his arrest his family rallied round him, and according to his lawyer, he has not touched alcohol or drugs since.
Evidence found on Taylor’s mobile phones played a key role in convicting him.
Messages he sent and received made reference to setting up the cocaine press, and the purchase and consumption of drugs, while photographs showed white lines of powder.
A prosecution lawyer said: “There were no references to the defendant being under duress.”
The court was told that the 2kg of benzocaine found in Taylor’s home was the basis for his charge of being concerned in the supply of drugs.
The UVF has always denied any connection to Taylor, with sources claiming he was working with criminals using its name to intimidate rival drug dealers.
The ex-soldier’s home on Chobham Street, in which he still resides according to court papers, is at the heart of loyalist east Belfast.
While the UVF deny any involvement in the cocaine factory, the PSNI is adamant that the terror gang was involved.
In subsequent correspondence with Sunday Life through his solicitor, Taylor categorically denied that he had any links to the East Belfast UVF, describing the police claim as “inaccurate”.