Wednesday 13 December 2017

Supreme Court reserves judgment in CAB case brought by convicted drug dealer John Gilligan

John Gilligan arrives for the Supreme Court hearing Photo: Gerry Mooney
John Gilligan arrives for the Supreme Court hearing Photo: Gerry Mooney

Tim Healy

The Supreme Court has reserved judgment in a case brought by convicted drug dealer John Gilligan and his family challenging proceeds of crime orders in relation to some of their assets.

Following a one-and-a-half day hearing, Chief Justice Susan Denham said the five-judge court was reserving its decision.

The Gilligans claim they did not receive a proper trial when his assets were frozen by the State in 1996.

Subsequent court rulings based on that decision were flawed or invalid, they argued.

The property included an equestrian centre in Enfield, Co Meath, which Gilligan had bought and developed before he spent 17 years in prison for drug trafficking. Other property owned by his former wife Geraldine, daughter Tracy and son Darren, was also found to be the proceeds of crime.

The Gilligans claimed the properties were bought from legitimate earnings.  They also included two houses in Lucan, Dublin, one belonging to Tracy, and another house in Blanchardstown, Dublin, belonging to Darren.

In continuing arguments on the second day of the case, Ben Ó'Floinn BL, for the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), rejected claims they did not get a proper hearing.

The 1996 freezing orders, confirmed in a High Court decision in July 1997, were obtained in accordance with legal requirements, he said.

The Gilligans resiled from the opportunity to challenge those orders because they took the view that they would await the next stage provided for under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 which was an application by CAB to forfeit the property to the State, Mr Ó'Floinn said.

Michael Bromley Martin QC, for the Gilligans, disagreed with this characterisation about their approach to the freezing orders.   They were assured by the authorities that the orders were of a temporary nature, he said.

Counsel also said at no time leading up to the final freezing orders had the family been represented.

This was because John Gilligan applied for an order under Section 6 of the Proceeds of Crime Act to allow a charge be placed on the property or to have funds released so that he could fund legal aid.   That application was strongly resisted by CAB and while the High Court granted an order subject to certain conditions, on appeal the order was quashed, counsel said.

By that time (July 1997) all the freezing orders had been made, he said.  "We maintain that at all stages of the Section 3.1 (freezing) orders, there was no representation or legal aid".

Paul Garlick QC, presenting the Gilligans' case in relation to alleged breaches of rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) Act 2003, said they did not receive a fair determination of the proceeds of crime case.

While the freezing orders pre-dated the 2003 Act, the subsequent disposal orders, and the fact that they were based on the original freezing orders, meant there had been a breach of their right to property under one of the protocols governing the ECHR, he said.

Asked by Mr Justice John MacMenamin was they anything counsel considered should be remitted to the High Court for rehearing, Mr Garlick said there may be abuse of process considerations.  There would also be considerations under the right to family life provisions of the ECHR (Article 8) particularly in relation to Geraldine and Tracy who still live in two of the properties, counsel said.

Mr Ó'Floinn, for CAB, said in reply they had received a fair trial and they had every opportunity to make the arguments they were now making throughout several hearings that occurred over the years.

Earlier, Mr Ó'Floinn also said there had been "something of a bifurcation in this case" in that,while Mr Gilligan had disclaimed an interest in most of the property and it was other members of the family who owned it, he directed a good deal of the subsequent litigation even though "he was the person who has least in terms of property interest".

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