The Miami Herald
October 26, 2000

Cuba detains detectives from Britain

This diplomatic face-off has a few twists, too


 The mystery is worthy of Graham Greene's novel Our Man in Havana.

 Yet this updated version of the spy thriller is fact, not fiction.

 More than two weeks ago, seven British private detectives were taken into
 custody in Cuba without explanation. The case has touched off a diplomatic
 face-off between the United Kingdom and the communist island.

 The British charge d'affaires in Cuba attempted to visit the detainees Tuesday at
 the state security prison, but he was turned away albeit with assurances that
 they were in good health and that he would be granted access within 48 hours.

 The six men and one woman have been held for 16 days without access to British
 diplomats, prompting Peter Hain, a Foreign Office minister in London, to summon
 Cuba's chargé d'affaires, Oscar de los Reyes, to his office Wednesday for an

 In a statement, Hain said he was dissatisfied with the Cuban government's
 response to British demands for access to the detectives.

 Greene's protagonist in the novel, a vacuum cleaner salesman named Jim
 Wormold, was a secret service agent in pre-revolutionary Havana who invented
 armed forces movements and operations. The private detectives, according to
 British press reports, were hired by the wife of a millionaire businessman living in
 Panama who suspected her husband of infidelity. Some reports say the
 millionaire is a Cuban national.

 In an alleged violation of Cuban law, the detectives were apparently using
 high-tech surveillance equipment to monitor the husband.

 Stephen Jakobi, a lawyer from Fair Trials Abroad, told the Times of London that
 the Cubans might suspect the private detectives of industrial espionage.

 ``I'm only speculating but I should imagine that's the area.'' Jakobi said. ``It's
 obviously not an ordinary criminal matter, judging by the way the Cubans are

 Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque said Wednesday that Cuban
 authorities were still investigating ``and at the right moment we will provide an
 extensive report on the situation.

 ``They are being investigated in Cuba as to what activities they were carrying out
 in the country,'' Pérez Roque told The Associated Press during a visit to

 The case, meanwhile, has generated intense interest in Britain. The London
 Telegraph warned readers that ``if the [seven] Britons have made the mistake of
 crossing Castro, their fate is bleak. Cuba's jails are notoriously filthy and
 overcrowded with everyone, from petty thieves to academics who spoke out
 against the government. The Cuban prison guards are not known for their restraint
 in maintaining order.''

 Thousands of British citizens vacation in Cuba every year. Recently, two young
 Britons were released from prison in Cuba after serving two years on a 15-year
 sentence for drug trafficking.

 May Lodge, the mother of one of the detectives said on Wednesday: ``I want my
 son back.''

 Her son, Ken Lodge, 53, has run a London-based detective agency for more than
 20 years, according to British officials. May Lodge said her son told her he would
 be gone for a couple of weeks and not to worry about him before he left for Cuba
 earlier this month.

 According to reports, the other detainees include London resident John Fawcett,
 Derek Pitt from Hertfordshire, two men identified only as Will Smart and Mike,
 and the latter's girlfriend.

 Hain called the case bizarre, saying ``it is a shame, because we enjoy
 increasingly close and friendly relations with Cuba.''