A High Court judge has refused to grant additional free legal aid to James “Mago” Gately and his partner Charlene Lam for defence of an action by the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) alleging their family home was bought with the proceeds of crime.
Cab previously opposed any legal aid, claiming the couple could afford to pay for their own legal representation for reasons including that they had had holidays in the Caribbean and southeast Asia and spent over €440,000 on their home
Mr Justice Alexander Owens last month granted the couple legal aid for their defence, noting the case was serious for them as it involved an application to seize their family home in Coolock, Dublin. The evidence showed that their spending on items such as “extravagant holidays” and a car had “dried up” lately, and he was more concerned about their recent circumstances, including no evidence to show that Mr Gately had earned any income from working as a trainer, he said.
He concluded they did not have the means to pay for legal representation and directed they get legal aid to cover the cost of one solicitor and one junior counsel.
When the case returned to court on Wednesday, the judge was told the couple had not yet filed a replying affidavit and Cab wanted a hearing date. Counsel for the couple said there was a very large volume of material involved and the substantive replying affidavits were not ready.
When she indicated there was an application for legal aid for services of a quantity surveyor, the judge said he had already granted legal aid, one counsel and one solicitor was adequate representation for both defendants and there was no reason the material could not be gone through.
He directed the replying affidavits must be in by January 8th, and returned the case to later in January.
Cab alleges Mr Gately is heavily involved with an organised crime organisation and, in its proceedings, wants orders against the couple over assets including their family home at Coolock, as well as a Volkswagen Golf GTI car and a women’s Rolex watch seized by the bureau in 2019. Cab claims the assets were acquired with the proceeds of crime, but the couple plead they were acquired with legitimate funds.
It is claimed Mr Gately has not worked since 2015 due to a threat on his life and Ms Lam is a self-employed beautician on a modest income who pays the family home mortgage and general living expenses. She received the Pandemic Unemployment Payment for a time when her business suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Gately claims their home was purchased in 2013 for €125,000, he paid a deposit on it out of his earnings from a hairdressing business and shop, and the rest was financed via a bank mortgage. It is claimed the Volkswagen Golf GTI car was paid for out of their own funds and an Audi A6 car of Ms Lam’s was part-purchased with money from a family member, her earnings and winnings from the National Lottery.