Saturday 24 August 2019

Gerald Kean only learned Regency Hotel injured was client of his practice 'weeks after shooting' - High Court

Celebrity solicitor, Gerald Kean pictured at the Four Courts for the second day of his High Court action. Pic: Collins Courts
Celebrity solicitor, Gerald Kean pictured at the Four Courts for the second day of his High Court action. Pic: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

Solicitor Gerald Kean has told a High Court jury he only learned that a man badly wounded during the Regency Hotel shooting was a client of his practice when Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) officers called to his office weeks after the shooting seeking documents about a house purchased by the man.

His office acted in 2015 for Sean McGovern in the purchase of a house at Kildare Road, Crumlin, for €155,000 cash.

The CAB officers told him on March 10, 2016, the same man was wounded in the Regency shooting the previous month, he said.

He was aware of the Regency incident, during which gangster David Byrne was shot dead but was unaware, until CAB told him, the wounded Mr McGovern was a client of his office.

His concern was that an Irish Daily Star article of March 11, 2016, headlined “Kean caught up in CAB probe”, had put him at the "centre" of a CAB probe into gangland crime, he said.

Mr Kean was being cross-examined by Eoin McCullough SC, for the publishers Independent Star Ltd, in his action alleging he was defamed in the article. He claims it wrongly meant he was linked to gangland crime and has damaged him personally and in his practice as a solicitor.

The paper denies defamation and has pleaded fair and reasonable publication in the public interest on a matter of public interest.

Mr Kean has said in direct evidence another solicitor in his practice acted for Mr McGovern in the purchase of the Crumlin house and he gave the CAB officers the documents held by his office concerning that purchase. 

On Wednesday, he agreed with Mr McCullough there was much public interest in a campaign of violence and intimidation in Dublin at the time of the article and that sources of wealth of gang members are of public interest as are activities of gardai and CAB to counter gangland crime. 

Mr McCullough said there had been two murders in February 2016 and gardai sought a number of search warrants from the District Court as part of their investigation into the Kinahan and Byrne crime gang.

Counsel said Mr McGovern is a person "at the centre of this campaign of drug dealing, violence and intimidation that has gripped the city since 2015".

Counsel said CAB wanted to follow how Mr McGovern's money had been used and referred to a 2017 High Court judgment concerning asset forefeiture proceedings by CAB in which it was stated the Crumlin house was purchased by Mr McGovern for €155,000 and the cost of renovations to it was almost €250,000.

When counsel said that judgment noted Mr McGovern had claimed he last worked in 2014, Mr Kean said Mr McGovern was described as a businessman and company director on a companies office document on his coveyancing file which appeared “standard” and complied with money laundering legislation.

The Crumlin house was not purchased with a bank loan but with funds from one of the biggest banks here which was “not unusual” at the time and he himself had friends who bought houses for cash.

Mr Kean agreed the Star article stated the CAB officers "called" to his office with a search warrant, that they were looking for documents concerning a house purchase by a Dublin man and Mr Kean had co-operated with them.

When looked at in its entirety, and taking into account the use of photos of himself and of doors being kicked, the article did not look as if it reflected what had happened, he said. There was no “search” and no “raid", he said.

Earlier, Mr Kean agreed he is a public figure who has appeared on many radio and TV shows since 2008, including Celebrity Operation Transformation, and who has spoken publicly about some of his personal relationships. He had also turned down many interview requests, he said.

Mr McCullough said an internet search by his side found about 1,450 stories involving Mr Kean from 2008 to 2019.

In direct evidence earlier, Mr Kean said a reference in the article to his having “denied any knowledge of the incident” when contacted by The Star the night before publication was incorrect. He said the journalist asked him about a “raid” on his office and he believed he responded with words to the effect ”No fucking way, absolutely not” before hanging up.

He apologised for the language used which “does not reflect me” but he was really upset and annoyed that anyone, “particularly The Star newspaper”, was suggesting his office had been raided.

The case continues on Thursday.

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