Sunday 25 February 2018

'Broke' Gilligan may be forced to move abroad

'You'd nearly miss the handcuffs' says freed gangster in court bid to prevent Jessbrook sale

Gilligan, friends and family celebrate his release
Gilligan, friends and family celebrate his release
John Gilligan, leaving Portlaoise Prison last week
The gates to the equestrian centre
CRUMBLED EMPIRE: The gangster's Jessbrook estate, bought with drugs money

THE convicted drug dealer John Gilligan is probably broke and is likely to leave the country. The gangster walked free from prison last Tuesday after 17 years behind bars. Sources in the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) said that extensive searches for his supposed fortune hidden offshore failed to turn up anything.

"No inquiries we have done have revealed any stash," said the source. "It's hard to tell [if it exists]. I'm not sure there's any substance to it."

The Cab hopes to sell Jessbrook, his equestrian centre, in the next few weeks, despite the gangster's attempts to stop the sale. He is reportedly desperate to keep the property in the family and is attempting to force the Cab back into the High Court to justify the legal basis for seizing it.

Gardai suspect that Gilligan could move to Spain. Until then he will be closely monitored by detectives across the city and country, in case he tries to renew contact with members of the drug trafficking gang smashed by gardai after the murder of Veronica Guerin. Last week, Gilligan spent his first few days of freedom being driven from one house to the next.

He spent Tuesday at his brother's modest terraced house in Clondalkin in west Dublin, a far cry from the sprawling show-jumping complex and arena he bought with his drugs money in the 1990s.

The 61-year-old convicted drug dealer was given a hero's welcome at Thomas Gilligan's home in Greenfort. Bunting and balloons festooned the modest house while family and friends partied inside.

Having told the press through his solicitor that he wouldn't talk for €1m, Gilligan couldn't help himself.

He posed for photographs outside the house, claiming to reporters that he was an "innocent" man who had nothing to do with the death of the journalist Veronica Guerin. On Wednesday, he was driven to Jessbrook Equestrian Centre where his wife, Geraldine, still lives in a house on the estate. Cab's attempts to seize the house are being challenged in the Supreme Court, but Geraldine Gilligan won the right to stay pending the outcome.

On Friday, Gilligan turned up at the Four Courts in Dublin. He revealed that he was having a consultation with his lawyers about his attempts to stop the sale of Jessbrook.

He joked with reporters about being in court without handcuffs, saying "you'd nearly miss them".

Jessbrook includes 80 acres and a 3,500-seater show-jumping arena, with stables and outbuildings. The estate was put on the market in three lots last month, after Gilligan lost the last of his court appeals trying to block the sale. He fought the cases on free legal aid while still behind bars. The State is asking €550,000 for the property. Last month, he applied to the High Court to have it included on the registry of lis pendens, which warns prospective buyers that the land is subject to litigation.

But Cab sources insisted that Gilligan's action had so far failed to deter any of the prospective bidders on the property. The estate and show-jumping arena was seized by Cab a number of years ago.

After his visit to Jessbrook, Gilligan returned to Dublin. He was driven to the Foxdene estate in Lucan, where a tabloid newspaper reported he was greeted by a group of young men. He reportedly spent the rest of the evening there drinking with his pals.


- Maeve Sheehan

Sunday Independent

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