A CRIMINAL nicknamed 'The Whale', who was yesterday given a suspended sentence for demanding money with menaces, was previously the victim of extortion plot himself - one that almost led to his murder.
Almost exactly 20 years ago Jimmy 'The Whale' Gantley (62) was shot four times in the stomach as he sat in The Gate pub on James's Street in Dublin after a dissident Republican thug was unable to extort IR£5,000 from him.
Yesterday Gantley was convicted in Dublin Circuit Court for his part in a 2011 scam where a far higher sum was being sought.
The gang that the veteran Crumlin criminal was part of was hoping to get €100,000 from a company called DX Ireland.
Described in court as a "playwright," it was claimed that the 'Whale' was asked to join the criminal operation to extort money from a business because he was good at voice characterisations.
'The Whale's' lawyers said he had been asked to be "spokesperson" in demanding money from DX Ireland, a delivery and tracking services firm, because of his experience in theatre.
Garda Colleen Doherty revealed that a DX van containing bags of legal documents had been stolen on October 5, 2011.
She said Gantley phoned DX five days later and claimed the people responsible for stealing the documents, which included NAMA files, would burn them if the firm didn't hand over money.
Gantley, who called himself "Frank" on the phone, said the thieves wanted €1,000 for each bag which would total €100,000.
He called two more DX staff members and managing director Kevin Galligan on different dates to demand money in return for the stolen documents.
Garda Doherty explained that three of the stolen document bags were posted to DX when Mr Galligan asked Gantley for proof that his associates had them.
Mr Galligan recorded his phone call, in which Gantley tried to haggle the amount of money demanded between €100,000 and €50,000.
Gardai used this recorded phone call to eventually trace Gantley and arrest him weeks later.
Garda Doherty agreed that the stolen mail was recovered in Harold's Cross in February 2012 during a separate investigation.
"It baffles me what people think up and for the life of me I would never have thought demanding money through menaces of legal documents would be an avenue to enrichment," Judge Martin Nolan commented.
Gantley, who is a former close associate of slain mob boss Martin 'The General' Cahill, received a five-year suspended jail sentence yesterday.
He was interviewed by the Herald in October 2013 and claimed that he had turned his back on crime.
He made no mention that he was under investigation for extortion.
"I'm a playwright as you know. I'm not involved in crime anymore and I have been for years. It was a period that I deeply regret but that's not me anymore," he said.
"I spend my days doing two things, writing plays and looking after my wife who isn't well," 'The Whale' said at the time.
Gantley has 10 previous convictions, including robbery and aggravated burglary, but none since 1993. However, some of his younger associates are suspected of being heavily involved in organised crime.