John Gilligan loses appeal on freezing of assets

Convicted drug dealer trying to stop Criminal Assets Bureau selling three properties

John Gilligan released from Portlaoise Prison in 2013. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish TImes

John Gilligan released from Portlaoise Prison in 2013. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish TImes


Convicted drug dealer John Gilligan and his family have lost a Supreme Court appeal over proceeds of crime orders made in relation to some of their assets.

The five judge court said the Gilligans had not established a previous Supreme Court decision of 2008 came within the necessary rare or exceptional circumstance in which a final judgment may be set aside.

It would have been necessary for them to show, through no fault of their own, they had been subject of a breach of constitutional rights, Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne said on behalf of the court.

“There is nothing extraneous in the circumstances of this case going to the very root of the fair and constitutional administration of justice which would necessitate the setting aside of the judgment of the Supreme Court of 2008”, she said.

The essence of the Gilligans’ contentions was that there was no trial of the issue of whether the relevant property was the proceeds of crime at the time the High Court placed the freezing orders, she said. There could therefore have been no subsequent order allowing it be disposed of by the State, the Gilligans argued.

The Proceeds of Crime Act 1996, under which those orders were made, gives affected parties “a number of opportunities” to challenge them, the judge said.

A party is not precluded from bringing a challenge at a later stage in this process, she said.

That had happened here and there was a full and comprehensive hearing before the late Mr Justice Kevin Feeney who gave his decision in the High Court in January 2011, she said.

The evidence on whuch the Criminal Assets Bureau initially relied remained substantially the same in all subsequent court appearances.

That evidence was subject to repeat evaluation under judicial scrutiny and this gave the Gilligans “multiple opportunities to challenge its authenticity, reliability or value”, the judge said.

The essence of what CAB asserted was never undermined, she held.

Ms Justice Dunne also rejected claims of a breach of the Gilligans’ European Convention right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions.

The court’s decision followed a hearing last year in which the Gilligans claimed they did not receive a proper trial when assets were frozen by the State in 1996. Subsequent court rulings based on that decision were flawed or invalid, they argued.

The property included an equestrian centre in Enfield, Co Meath, which John Gilligan had bought and developed before he spent 17 years in prison for drug trafficking.

Other property owned by his former wife Geraldine, daughter Tracey and son Darren, was also found to be the proceeds of crime.

The Gilligans claimed the properties were bought from legitimate earnings. They included two houses in Lucan, Dublin, one belonging to Tracey, and another house in Blanchardstown, Dublin, belonging to Darren.

The Criminal Assets Bureau had rejected their claims they did not get a proper hearing.

Lawyers for the Gilligans, including two Queen’s Counsel, disputed CAB’s claims and said the family had been assured by the authorities the orders were of a temporary nature.

At no time leading up to the final freezing orders had the family been represented, it was argued.