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Saturday 16 December 2017

Equestrian centre put up for sale

The Jessbrook Equestrian Centre, once owned by one of Ireland's most notorious criminals, has nine potential buyers
The Jessbrook Equestrian Centre, once owned by one of Ireland's most notorious criminals, has nine potential buyers

Would-be buyers of the equestrian centre once owned by one of Ireland's most notorious criminals have been wished good luck should they embark on a treasure hunt.

Nearly 17 years after drugs trafficker John Gilligan's prized Jessbrook estate in Co Kildare was seized, the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) insisted rumours that he stashed his money there were just old wives' tales.

"Speculation has been going on since he went into jail, I can't comment," a CAB spokesman said.

"But we'll tell them, 'best of luck'."

The Olympic-sized Jessbrook Equestrian Centre, in Mucklon near Enfield has lain empty since July 1996.

It has finally gone on the property market for 500,000 euro - a fraction of previous valuations of around five million euro when assets inspectors first moved in.

Barry McDonald, of REA McDonald, which is handling the sale of the property with Dublin-based Lowe and Associates, said the price reflected the current property market and has nothing to do with the previous owner's identity.

"It's obviously very unique," Mr McDonald said.

"To try to develop a building like this now would cost - and did cost - many multiples of what it's costing now."

Just shy of 50 acres, the 3,500 seat arena, with its VIP section and commentary booths, is now a shell for rat poison and bird droppings.

The only signs of life around the unfinished centre - built by Gilligan in an attempt to pass himself off as a legitimate businessman - were discarded cigarette and tobacco packets and an empty bag of crisps.

A separate building containing 12 stables, a tack room, Gilligan's old office and a four-bedroom apartment is also included in the price. There is also a service area and viewing stand, and a hangar with 32 additional stables.

A 1996 calendar strewn on the office floor is a reminder of just how long the property has been in CAB's possession.

The complex is one of three lots that once formed Gilligan's doomed equestrian empire.

The other two are made up of 8.73 acres and 21.13 acres of agricultural land.

But while the buildings and stables lie derelict, some signs remain that this was once a working equestrian centre.

The name Hector, believed to be that of a horse, remains scrawled on a whiteboard in the stables, while most stalls are marked with different monikers, from Betty Boo to Tufty, and Paddy, Billy, Tommy and Ben.

Bed linen remains on the beds of the apartment now home to a dead bird and countless tangled cobwebs.

The sprawling property and its rural landscape are next door to the Gilligan family home, where the crime lord's wife Geraldine still lives.

A legal dispute over ownership of the house is still ongoing, which is expected to continue when Gilligan is released from prison within months.

The 61-year-old 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.

Drawn-out attempts to retain Gilligan's properties faltered last November when the Supreme Court threw out his latest appeal.

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

The Office of Public Works (OPW) directed CAB to dispose of the assets on behalf of the Government.

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

CAB said it was a "good day" for the agencies and all those involved in the legal process that the property has finally gone up for sale.

"It's a big day for us, for everybody who was involved in both the investigations and the litigation that's gone over the last number of years - 16 and a half long years," the spokesman said.

"It's great to see that it's gone on the market and will hopefully draw a line in the sand."

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.

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.

Press Association

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