Gerald Kean did not know man who was shot was client of his practice until CAB called

Solicitor claims he was defamed in article about visit by Criminal Assets Bureau officers seeking papers on house purchase

  Solicitor Gerald Kean pictured at the Four Courts  on Wednesday   for the second day of his High Court defamation action.  Photograph: Collins Courts

Solicitor Gerald Kean pictured at the Four Courts on Wednesday for the second day of his High Court defamation action. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

Solicitor Gerald Kean has told a High Court jury he only learned that a man wounded during the Regency Hotel shooting was a client of his practice when officers of the Criminal Assets Bureau called to his office weeks after the shooting seeking documents about a house purchased by the man.

His office acted in 2015 for Sean McGovern in the purchase of a house at Kildare Road, Crumlin, Dublin, for €155,000 cash and the CAB officers told him on March 10th 2016 the same man was wounded in the Regency Hotel shooting the previous month, he said.

He was aware of the Regency Hotel incident, during which David Byrne was shot dead but was unaware, until CAB told him, the wounded Mr McGovern was a client of his office.

His concern was that an Irish Daily Star article of March 11th 2016, headlined “Kean caught up in CAB probe”, had put him at the “centre” of a CAB investigation into gangland crime, he said.

Mr Kean was being cross-examined by Eoin McCullough SC, for Independent Star Ltd, in his action alleging he was defamed in the article. He claims it wrongly meant he was linked to gangland crime and has damaged him personally and in his practice as a solicitor.

The defence denies defamation and has pleaded fair and reasonable publication in the public interest.

Mr Kean has said in direct evidence another solicitor in his practice acted for Mr McGovern in the purchase of the Crumlin house and he gave the CAB officers the documents held by his office concerning that purchase.

On Wednesday, he agreed with Mr McCullough there was much public interest in a campaign of violence and intimidation in Dublin at the time of the article and that sources of wealth of gang members are of public interest as are activities of gardaí and CAB to counter gangland crime.

Described as businessman

Mr McCullough said there had been two murders in February 2016 and gardaí sought a number of search warrants from the District Court as part of their investigation into the Kinahan and Byrne crime gang.

Counsel said Mr McGovern was a person “at the centre of this campaign of drug dealing, violence and intimidation that has gripped the city since 2015”.

Counsel said CAB wanted to follow how Mr McGovern’s money had been used and referred to a 2017 High Court judgment concerning asset forfeiture proceedings by CAB in which it was stated the Crumlin house was purchased by Mr McGovern for €155,000 and the cost of renovations to it was almost €250,000.

When counsel said that judgment noted Mr McGovern had claimed he last worked in 2014, Mr Kean said Mr McGovern was described as a businessman and company director on a companies office document on his conveyancing file which appeared “standard” and complied with money laundering legislation.

The Crumlin house was not purchased with a bank loan but with funds from one of the biggest banks here which was “not unusual” at the time and he himself had friends who bought houses for cash.

Mr Kean agreed the article stated the CAB officers “called” to his office with a search warrant, that they were looking for documents concerning a house purchase by a Dublin man and Mr Kean had co-operated with them.

When looked at in its entirety, and taking into account the use of photos of himself and of doors being kicked, the article did not look as if it reflected what had happened, he said. There was no “search” and no “raid”, he said.

In direct evidence earlier, Mr Kean said a reference in the article to his having “denied any knowledge of the incident” when contacted by The Star the night before publication was incorrect. He said the journalist asked him about a “raid” on his office and he believed he responded with words to the effect “No f**king way, absolutely not” before hanging up.

He apologised for the language used which “does not reflect me” but he was really upset and annoyed that anyone, “particularly The Star newspaper”, was suggesting his office had been raided.

The case continues on Thursday.