DRUGS baron John Gilligan is making a desperate court bid to prevent the sale of his beloved 'Jessbrook' Equestrian Centre as he prepares to be released from jail.
As the one-time suspect in the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin is due out of high-security Portlaoise Prison today, it has emerged that he has lodged High Court papers to try to dissuade potential buyers of the showjumping arena from purchasing the complex.
The Criminal Assets Bureau's (CAB) seizure of the property was completed last year after a 17-year court battle with Gilligan. Jessbrook, valued at €5m during the boom years, was put on the market by the State for €500,000 just last month.
Gilligan had hoped that the 3,000-seat arena would host international show-jumping tournaments.
Now Gilligan, his wife Geraldine and children Darren and Treacy have applied to the High Court for a certificate of 'lis pendens' – essentially a notice on the property's land records to warn buyers that there are legal proceedings pending.
A garda source last night insisted that the sale of the centre would proceed, saying that Gilligan's legal action would be challenged in court.
The source said: "The sale will go ahead, it's full steam ahead in relation to it and there are potential buyers out there."
They said that potential buyers have not been deterred by Gilligan's notoriety.
Meanwhile, Gilligan has lost the latest round of a separate legal battle yesterday as the Supreme Court threw out another in a long line of appeals over his detention.
Gilligan had challenged the court's legal authority to sentence him to consecutive jail terms for possession of mobile phones in jail, after he was jailed for 20 years for drug trafficking and subsequently two years for assaulting a prison officer.
Gilligan argued that the requirement that the sentence be consecutive was an impermissible encroachment on the sentencing powers of the judiciary.
But the five-judge Supreme Court dismissed Gilligan's challenge to the constitutionality of the relevant law – Section 13 of the Criminal Law Act 1976.
Regardless of the outcome of the challenge, Gilligan was due to be released today after spending 13 years and six months behind bars.
Gilligan issued a letter through his solicitors last week insisting he would not speak to the media even if all the newspapers and broadcasters paid him €1m each.
Gilligan maintains he was only targeted by police after the murder of the mother of one, one of Ireland's leading crime reporters at the time of her death.
The criminal investigation was one of the largest in the history of the State and led to over 150 arrests. Gilligan was extradited from England in February 2002 after being stopped with bags full of cash on his way through Heathrow Airport.
He was accused and acquitted of ordering Ms Guerin's murder, and also cleared of firearms charges, but convicted of possession of an estimated 20,000kg of cannabis resin for sale and supply.
He was handed a record 28 years behind bars, which was later reduced on appeal to 20 years.
Brian Meehan was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.