independent

Monday 21 April 2014

After 16 long years, the jewel in Gilligan's criminal empire will finally be sold off by CAB

Jessbrook equestrian centre, which was the prize asset in crime boss John Gilligan's property portfolio, has finally been seized from him after a 16-year court battle.

The Criminal Assets Bureau has been given the go-ahead by the Supreme Court to sell off the centre at Mucklon in north Kildare.

A decision by engineers from Kildare County Council on the structure of the buildings will now determine whether it should be sold as an equestrian centre or what one garda officer described as a "glorified barn".

The CAB was also given permission to sell 90 acres surrounding the centre, which is located in a quiet rural lane, between Timahoe and the outskirts of Johnstownbridge near the Kildare-Meath border.

Also being sold off is one of Gilligan's houses at Weston Green in Lucan. It is jointly owned by the convicted drug trafficker and his son, Darren.

John Gilligan, who is serving a 20-year jail sentence for drug trafficking, was the leader of the gang, who murdered 'Sunday Independent' journalist Veronica Guerin in 1996.

In a response to the murder, the Government set up the CAB to track down the assets of gangsters and terrorists and seize them.

Their first target was Gilligan and the Jessbrook case become the foundation stone of the bureau.

The Mucklon complex includes seating for 3,500 patrons, indoor and outdoor arenas, stables, a riding school, offices and an apartment over the stables.

But the disposal of a nearby house, where Gilligan's wife, Geraldine and niece still reside along with a further 10 acres of land, are still subject to ongoing legal challenges as well as a house at Corduff Avenue in Blanchardstown and another at Willsbrook View in Lucan.

Gilligan is due to be released from prison at the end of August and is highly unlikely to qualify for a remission of sentence for good behaviour.

While in jail, he received a further six-month consecutive sentence for illegal possession of a mobile phone behind bars. At the time it was built in 1995 and 1996, Jessbrook was regarded as the biggest indoor equestrian centre in the country.

Cell

Gilligan was reckoned to have spent £1.5m (€1.8m) on building the centre, a further £300,000 (€360,000) on seating and invested £400,000 (€480,000) on steel structures.

The gangster plotted his campaign to fight the CAB through the courts from his cell in Portlaoise jail and the case has been winding its way slowly through the courts since the winter of 1996.

He fought the CAB on free legal aid every step of the way and this included a challenge to the Proceeds of Crime Act, which is the main weapon of the CAB and is used by the bureau to seize assets.

Gilligan had reckoned that the centre, which was to have become the jewel in the crown for the wealthy drugs trafficker, was worth €5m.

But the big fall in property prices as a result of the recession and a serious deterioration in the site and buildings has meant that it is likely to fetch a lot less now when it is officially offered for sale.

Over the past few years, the centre has been rented by the Office of Public Works, which used it as a warehouse for broken furniture and computer monitors, out of date publications, non-confidential documents and scaffolding planks.

The padlock on the main gate to the centre is rusty and the laneway leading up to the arena is rarely used while the CCTV monitor focused on the gate is no longer used.

A crumpled and soggy Golden Pages phone directory for 2013 lay beside the gateway yesterday, near a "no trespassing" sign.

The synthetic surface where show-jumping horses were once put through their paces has long been removed and there is an overall look of decay and neglect.

Irish Independent

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