Spanish police raid cannabis grow house linked to John Gilligan

Four arrested in raids targeting operation believed run by former Dublin gangland boss

Police in Spain have raided a cannabis grow house facility they say was being used by the Spanish-based drugs gang that has been led by Dubliner John Gilligan since 2019.

The raids of several properties in southern Spain and the arrest of four suspects come as Gilligan remains on bail having been arrested last October during the first major operation into his gang since he re-established himself in the drugs trade there.

The Spanish police and the Garda have found evidence that Gilligan and his associates have sold loaded firearms to criminals in Ireland, and successfully smuggled them into the Republic. They have also sold cannabis to people in Britain and Ireland by delivering drugs to them via parcel mail.

On Wednesday, four arrests were made in the towns of Torrevieja, Pilar de la Horadada and San Miguel de Salinas, in the Alicante region.


Four houses were searched, one of which had been converted to grow cannabis crops. Spanish offices said they also discovered and seized documents and mobile telephones.

Cannabis crops

Spanish police said the four people arrested were “engaged in drug trafficking by sending mail to the United Kingdom”.

They added the four people arrested had different roles in the gang run by Gilligan, though did they not mention him by name.

One of those arrested was responsible for the cannabis crops and the facility where the plants were growing. A second suspect was responsible for dealing with people in the UK who were seeking to buy drugs and the final two suspects were responsible for sending the parcels of drugs to customers via the postal service.

Spanish police described the four people arrest on Thursday as the remains of the gang run by Gilligan, adding it was an “Irish organisation dependent on the arrested leader”.

Gilligan (68) and five other people were all arrested last October in Alicante as part of a pre-planned operation by the Spanish National Police, supported by the Garda and the UK's National Crime Agency.

The search operation saw armed police storm a house Gilligan was staying in, and was part of a wider investigation into criminals using the postal service to send “marijuana and hypnotic drugs to the United Kingdom and Ireland”.

Spanish police at the time confirmed the arrest of the six suspects as well as the seizure of 4kg of cannabis and 15,000 pills in the search as well as the Colt Python revolver, which had been buried in the ground.

Threat to kill

A further 4kg of cannabis and 11,000 pills were also found packed into parcels at four other properties.

Gilligan was found not guilty of the murder of Veronica Guerin, though he was jailed on drugs trafficking charges. He was released from Portlaoise Prison in October 2013 after serving 17 years.

Most of that time was served on a drug-dealing sentence, with a short period added for threatening to kill a prison officer.

In the period after his release he remained in Ireland and several efforts were made to kill him, including one attack in February, 2019, during which he was wounded by gunmen who targeted him at a house where he was staying in Clondalkin, west Dublin.

Photos emerged of him in a wheelchair after the attack and he fled to the UK for a period.

Two weeks after the attack that almost killed Gilligan, Stephen ‘Dougie’ Moran, who had been driving him around in Dublin, was shot dead at his home in Lucan.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times