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Saturday 23 August 2014

Crime boss loses latest appeal

Published 14/10/2013 | 11:51

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John Gilligan is set to be released from prison tomorrow

Organised crime boss John Gilligan has lost his latest round of legal fights as he prepares to be released from jail.

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The one-time suspect in the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin is due out of high-security Portlaoise prison any time from midnight tonight.

And as he awaits freedom the Supreme Court has thrown out another in a long line of appeals over his detention.

Gilligan had challenged the courts' legality to sentence him to consecutive jail terms for possession of mobile phones in jail after he was jailed for 20 years for drugs trafficking and subsequently two years for assaulting a prison officer.

He is being released tomorrow 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 1 million euro (£850,000) each.

Exactly a month ago - after a lengthy legal battle - his prized Jessbrook equestrian centre and estate in Co Kildare was put on the market by the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab).

Gardai had been trying to take control of his properties through proceeds of crime laws set up in the wake of Ms Guerin's murder in 1996.

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.

In the mid-1990s Ms Guerin embarked on a crusade to expose in the Sunday Independent the ruthless dealings of drugs barons in Ireland.

But her high-profile war against gangsters was brought to an end when a gunman on a motorbike shot her dead in her car at traffic lights on the Naas Road on June 26, 1996.

Her murder was the first assassination of a reporter in the Irish Republic, sparking shock and anger among colleagues, the public and gardai, who vowed to track down her killers.

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 20,000 kilograms 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.

Paul Ward was also convicted and sentenced to life in prison in November 1988, but his conviction was later overturned on appeal.

The man named during one court case as having pulled the trigger in the Guerin murder, the late Patrick 'Dutchy' Holland, had continuously denied any involvement up until his death in 2009.

Elsewhere, Gilligan used the legal protection of a High Court case in Dublin in 2008 to name wanted fraudster John Traynor, known as The Coach, as the man who ordered the hit.

Jailed on March 15, 2001, Gilligan would have been due for release two years ago with remission for good behaviour.

But in 2006 he was handed another two-year sentence for assaulting a prison officer, to start on the date of the expiry of the drug sentence.

He has also been twice convicted for having a mobile phone in prison. He is appealing the sentence for that to the Circuit Court and that case was delayed as he unsuccessfully challenged the legality of consecutive sentencing to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, his former home, the Olympic-sized Jessbrook centre, in Mucklon near Enfield, had lain empty since July 1996 when it was seized by gardai.

Once valued at five million euro (£4.24 million), it has finally gone on the property market for a mere 500,000 euro (£424,000).

Just shy of 50 acres, the 3,500-seat arena, with its VIP section and commentary booths, is now a shell for rat poison and bird droppings.

The sprawling property and its rural landscape are next door to the Gilligan family home, where the crime lord's estranged wife Geraldine has been living at times.

His family still own the Judges Chamber bar in Alicante, which is run by his daughter Tracey.

The convicted drug trafficker has also felt the wrath of authorities in Britain, who forced him to hand over nearly half a million euro.

The UK's Revenue and Customs seized IR£296,000 hidden in a suitcase as Gilligan boarded a plane for Amsterdam in Heathrow in October 1, 1996.

Officials finally secured the seizure at Uxbridge Magistrates' Court, London, in 2007 and with nearly eight years' interest the money was worth around 500,000 euro (£424,000).

Press Association

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