Gilligan mounts new challenge to CAB sale of equestrian centre

Estate has been on sale for past month

John Gilligan is taken by gardaí from the High Court  in 2010. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

John Gilligan is taken by gardaí from the High Court in 2010. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Mon, Oct 14, 2013, 20:54

The convicted drug dealer John Gilligan, who is due for release from prison tomorrow, has taken fresh High Court proceedings to try and stop the Criminal Assets Bureau selling his lands and Jessbrook 3,500-seater show jumping arena.

The move comes as the first firm offers have been made for the estate, which has been on sale for the past month.

The lands, arena and related buildings near Johnstownbridge on the border between Kildare and Meath were offered for sale in mid September after Gilligan lost the last of his appeals in the courts to fight the State seizing the assets.

However, while it seemed he had exhausted all of his options to fight the seizure of the estate after a 17-year legal battle while he was on free legal aid, he has been successful in securing a certificate of lis pendens.

The filing of a lis pendens is effectively an official warning to any perspective buyer than the lands they are about to purchase are at the centre of legal dispute.

As part of the same action, Gilligan has also put forward a number of arguments in which he is effectively trying to re-open the protracted legal process that saw the estate seized by the State.

The Criminal Assets Bureau must now take on Gilligan in the High Court again and bring its arguments to the courts as to why it feels Gilligan’s action is groundless. If the court agrees, the inclusion of the estate on the “registrar of lispendens” would be vacated and the sale could proceed.

Sources familiar with the process said the latest development does not derail the sale process, but would emerge when any perspective buyer conducted legal due diligence on the property to ensure there is no impediment to the sale. The inclusion on the registrar of lispendens may deter some buyers, though property sold by the Bureau has always sold well.

It has been stated that the OPW was seeking offers in the region of €500,000 for the lands, dilapidated show jumping arena and related buildings. The Irish Times has learned a number of firm offers have been made in recent days.

Senior Garda sources told The Irish Times the latest effort by Gilligan to block or at least frustrate the sale appears to be designed by Gilligan to discourage any would-be buyers from acquiring the lands.

Gilligan along with his wife Geraldine, son Darren and daughter Treacy, applied to the High Court last month and secured its approval on September 18th for entry of the estate into the “registrar of lispendens”.

Geraldine Gilligan is still living in the main house on the lands adjacent to Jessbrook, with the small parcel of land that property is on still the subject of a legal battle between the Gilligans and the Criminal Assets Bureau in the Supreme Court.

However, the rest of the lands, stables and related buildings were offered for sale by the State via the Office of Public Works in mid September.

Lot 1 includes 49.55 acres of agricultural land, along with the 5,645 sq metre arena, two stable blocks and administrative building.

Lot 2 is 8.73 acres and Lot 3 is 21.13 acres of what sources described as “grazing land”.

It was acquired in parcels between 1993 and 1996. Gilligan has been in prison since 1996 and is due for release from Portlaoise Prison on completion of a 20-year jail term at midnight for drug dealing and smaller sentences added to the main term for possessing telephones in jail and threatening prison officers.

He and his wife Geraldine were planning to hold international show jumping competitions at Jessbrook before he was jailed. However, his gang imploded during the massive Garda investigation targeted at it following the 1996 murder of Veronica Guerin.

Gilligan fled the country after the murder but was extradited back to Ireland. While he was never convicted of the journalist’s murder he has been serving a 20-year jail term for cannabis smuggling.