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Monday 27 February 2017

John Gilligan's equestrian centre to be sold off by CAB ahead of his release next year

Brian Hutton

DETECTIVES are selling off an Olympic-sized equestrian centre after an epic 16-year battle to seize the assets of one of Ireland's most notorious criminals.

Convicted drug trafficker John Gilligan's losing fight with the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) will also see one of his houses at Weston Green, Lucan, jointly owned with his son Darren, go on the open market within weeks.

However, ongoing legal challenges mean his wife Geraldine will, for now, be able to stay on at their house adjoining the infamous equestrian centre in Jessbrook, Mucklon, Co Kildare.

CAB officers are also pursuing properties at Corduff Avenue, in Blanchardstown, west Dublin and Willsbrook View, in Lucan.

Gilligan (59) has claimed in court the only reason he was being pursued was because of the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin. He was cleared of the killing but sentenced to 20 years in Portlaoise Prison for drug trafficking.

Gardai have been trying to take control of his properties through proceeds of crime laws, set up in the wake of the Guerin killing, since November 1996. Gilligan is due for release next year.

"It is one of the longest cases in CAB at the moment before the courts," said a source.

"They have appealed every facet of the Proceeds of Crime Act and Criminal Assets Bureau Act all the way up and down the system."

But the drawn-out attempts to retain the properties - once valued at more than 6 million euro - faltered last Friday when the Supreme Court threw out Gilligan's latest appeal.

The ruling means the Jessbrook Equestrian Centre, along with 90 acres of land, and the house at Weston Green in Lucan, were handed over to the State.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) has asked the CAB to dispose of the assets on behalf of the government.

A source said: "We'll be doing that as quickly as possible. If not before Christmas, then the new year at the very latest."

The OPW has been using the equestrian centre as a store for furniture.

Gilligan is thought to have spent 1.5 million Irish pounds developing the facility to international standards at the time, but it was never fully completed.

It includes two large stable blocks, one with saddle rooms and an apartment over the stables.

Everything was paid for at the time in cash, including a 300,000 pound seating arena, 700,000 pounds in steel structures and 169,000 pounds on buying land around the property.

The new owners can expect to carry out works, including roof repairs and the installation of electricity. But one source close to the investigation said any hopes of hosting international events would be far-fetched.

"It was a white elephant - the roads there would not support the traffic. It is too far from the main road," the source said.

The CAB has yet to get a present day market valuation on the property and is expected to call in local planners and engineers to assess the structures in the coming days.

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