Thursday 14 November 2019

Gilligan goes free after case over €20,000 cash at airport is dismissed

Free: John Gilligan leaves Coleraine Magistrates’ Court after the case against him was dismissed. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA
Free: John Gilligan leaves Coleraine Magistrates’ Court after the case against him was dismissed. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

John Gilligan will not be prosecuted after he was found with more than €20,000 in cash at Belfast International Airport.

The former gang boss, who attempted to flee the country last year following a death threat, walked out of Coleraine Magistrates' Court a free man yesterday after his case was dismissed.

Mr Gilligan was arrested last August by Border Force officers while attempting to board a flight to Alicante in Spain at Belfast Airport. Approximately £19,648 (€22,280) was recovered in a suitcase.

The 67-year-old, of Greenfort Crescent, Clondalkin, Dublin, was charged with attempting to remove criminal property from the North.

Prosecutors argued he intended to purchase a prescription drug in Spain for distribution on the Irish drugs black market. His defence said it was a tenuous case.

He was questioned about an anti-insomnia prescribed medication which is "prevalent" in the Irish drugs market.

Prosecutors charged him with possession of criminal property and attempting to remove criminal property.

His defence barrister, Sean Devine, said it was a tenuous case based around a small piece of cardboard found in his possession with the name Zopiclone on it.

Mr Gilligan said the money was intended to be used to rent a property in Spain and had been donated by relatives.

He had a piece of paper with the name of the drug printed on it but said it was for his personal use, and followed pain near his ribs which he suffered from bullet wounds.

A black diary had been found in his possession with a torn-off part of a packet for the prescription sleeping drug.

He was questioned about the anti-insomnia prescribed medication Zopiclone, which investigators said was "prevalent" in the Irish drugs market.

The defendant had denied planning to smuggle Zopiclone from Spain into Ireland, where it commanded a higher price on the streets, according to prosecution barrister Robin Steer.

Mr Gilligan was also in possession of a number of mobile phone Sim cards and top-up cards which prosecutors argued were to be used to cover his tracks following phone calls in Spain.

Mr Steer summarised the accused's defence as: "It is a mere coincidence that I am bringing this money out in cash and going to an area where Zopiclone is cheaper and widely available."

Prosecutors disclosed a series of flights taken by Mr Gilligan departing from Belfast for Spain but returning to Dublin.

A statement from gardaí read to the court said the tablets were available in a chemist for as little as eight for €28.

A magistrate then dismissed the case and said suspicion was insufficient to warrant a conviction in criminal courts.

Mr Gilligan then walked out of the court without comment and into a taxi to an unknown location.

Mr Gilligan, who was the head of the gang which killed journalist Veronica Guerin in 1996, spent 17 years in jail and suffered horrific injuries in a murder attempt in Dublin on March 1, 2014, when a gunman burst through the front door of a house he was staying in at Greenfort Crescent, Clondalkin, and shot him as he tried to escape into the kitchen.

He suffered a broken hip, abdominal injuries, a shot to the leg and a graze to the head, but remarkably survived the hit attempt.

After discharging himself from Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, Mr Gilligan went into hiding in the UK but ultimately had to return to try to prevent the CAB seizing his last three properties.

Irish Independent

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