Cab to sell Gilligan equestrian centre after family fails in last-ditch appeal

Fri, Nov 16, 2012, 00:00

The Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) is to sell the large equestrian centre acquired by jailed drug dealer and gang leader John Gilligan after the failure of a last-ditch legal challenge to the disposal of the asset.

The Jessbrook arena, near Enfield, Co Meath, has been at the centre of a legal battle between the State and the Gilligan family since the establishment of Cab in 1997 after the 1996 murder of Veronica Guerin.

The property and surrounding lands were first frozen by the courts more than 15 years ago. It increased hugely in value during the boom and crashed again as the recession hit.

The once international standard show jumping arena was used in recent years to store E-voting machines that were acquired by the Fianna Fáil-led coalition but never used. The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Gilligan’s wife, Geraldine, and his adult children, Treacy and Darren, that sought to block the disposal of the assets.

As well as the 3,500-seat equestrian centre now for sale, Cab can also sell 90 acres of land it is set in, as well as 30 stables in two blocks at the site and an apartment.

The Supreme Court ruling also provides for the sale of a house at Weston Green in Lucan, where Darren Gilligan has resided.

€2m market value

The properties have an estimated market value of about €2 million. However, Garda sources said Gilligan has substantial sums that have been hidden beyond the reach of the State. Some sources believe he has “tens of millions” hidden, probably offshore. He is due for release next August.

Although he does not own the assets now being sold, the courts have ruled they were funded or part-funded with the proceeds of crime.

A house at the Jessbrook centre and about two acres beside it are still the subject of a legal challenge from members of the Gilligan family, and are not being sold.

Another house at Willsbrook in Lucan and a property at Corduff are also still at the centre of a legal battle and are not being disposed of.

While the period from the seizure to the disposal of any asset should take no longer than seven years under the Proceeds of Crime Act, the case involving Jessbrook and the other assets now being sold was delayed because of legal challenges.

Gilligan is now 60 and has been in prison for the past 16 years, having been in jail on remand for five years before he was eventually put on trial.

A native of Ballyfermot, Dublin, he was cleared in 2001 of the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin in June 1996.

He was convicted by the Special Criminal Court in March 2001 of 11 offences of unlawfully importing cannabis resin into the State on various dates between July 1st, 1994, and October 6th, 1996, and unlawful possession of cannabis resin for sale or supply on the same dates.

Sentenced reduced

Gilligan was originally sentenced to 28 years in prison for the drugs offences, but this was reduced on appeal to 20 years.

He was also convicted in June 2002 of threatening to kill two prison officers in March 2001 and was given a two-year prison sentence to run consecutively after the 20-year sentence.

He was later convicted of further charges relating to the possession of mobile phones.

If he had not been convicted of the additional offences he would already be out of prison. He is due for release from Portlaoise prison next August.