Thursday, 27 December 2001

Man shot dead in street by lone gunman

By Isabel Hurley and Martina Devlin

Thursday December 27 2001
A MURDER hunt was under way in Dublin last night after a man was gunned down while walking in the centre of Tallaght.

The man was shot dead by a gunman who approached him from behind.

Gardai from the station a few hundreds yards away were quickly on the scene but the man, who had not been identified late last night, is believed to have died on the spot.

The area was immediately cordoned off and gardai were believed to be looking for a silver car, thought to be a Peugeot, seen leaving the area. It is the second fatal shooting in Dublin in a week.

As detectives carried out a detailed search of the crime scene, Sgt John McGing, said there were witnesses to the shooting who were helping gardai. Among them was a woman who was walking very close to the victim when his killer struck. Despite her distress, she immediately contacted gardai.

Chief Supt Noel Smith, who left his home to attend the scene of the crime, described the killing as a "callous murder". He asked: "What kind of people would carry out something like this on St Stephen's Day?" While there appeared to be only one gunman, he seemed to have accomplices. "A car approached the man from behind and we don't know how many it contained, but there were at least three people in the car," Supt Smith said.

"One of the men got out and shot him from behind. We don't know how many times. He was hit in the head and died immediately."

Late last night, the body of the unidentified victim was still at the scene. He is described as in his late forties or early fifties, balding, with grey-to-white hair. Gardai redirected traffic away from the scene, where plastic sheeting had been placed over the corpse.

Detectives from the technical bureau at Garda Headquarters arrived to assist in the investigation and State Pathologist was also informed.

The shooting comes only five days after another brutal killing in the nearby suburb of Clondalkin. Simon Doyle was shot twice at close range by a lone gunman after he got out of his car in the early hours of Saturday morning. It is believed the victim had a number of previous convictions including one for assault and was suspected of drugs involvement.

The number of drugs-related killings has dropped recently, compared with last year, when fatal gangland shootings averaged almost one a month.

However, a man who was shot dead in the north-west of Dublin in November was thought to be the victim of a long-running feud between rival gangs seeking control over criminal activity in the Finglas/Cabra area of the city. The nephew of the November shooting victim had been killed in a gun attack almost exactly 12 months earlier.

- Isabel Hurley and Martina Devlin

Thursday, 1 November 2001

Gardai raids on warehouses net £500,000 in stolen cars

By Tom Brady

Thursday November 01 2001
GARDAI have recovered stolen cars and jeeps worth more than £500,000 after raiding two provincial warehouses used by highly organised Dublin crime gangs.

All of the vehicles were taken in the greater Dublin region and were intended to be broken up for sale as parts to selected scrapyards around the country.

The warehouses, which also contained other high-value stolen goods, were uncovered after detectives from the Garda's stolen vehicles squad, based at Harcourt Square in Dublin, carried out a lengthy investigation into two car rings based in the capital.

Gardai said last night that pressure on the gangs had forced them to move their storage depots out of the Dublin area and into the provinces where the vehicles were being "chopped up" and prepared for delivery to scrapyard agents.

Detectives estimated that on the black market the vehicles would have fetched about half their retail worth as parts.

In a Limerick warehouse, the stolen vehicles squad, working with local gardai, recovered cars worth around £300,000 including one £100,000 Mercedes.

And in the latest raid detectives and gardai from the Cavan-Monaghan division swooped on a warehouse in Belturbet, Co Cavan, and recovered 14 vehicles that had all been stolen in the Dublin region in the past seven months. The vehicles ranged from top-of-the-market Landrover Discovery to Volkswagen Passat and Toyota Corolla cars.

A large quantity of alloy wheels, car engines, other vehicle parts and electrical tools were also recovered and the haul was estimated to be worth at least £200,000.

Some of the tools were still in their initial packing and were thought to have been part of a haul taken in a burglary of a premises in the Naas-Newbridge area recently.

The gangs involved in the Limerick and Belturbet depots operate separately, but gardai believe the members know each other. Each gang is about six-strong and, according to detectives, the racket is very carefully planned.

Gardai are satisfied they know the identities of the main players.

One detective said last night: "Moving the depots out of Dublin is a relatively new trend and the gangs had hoped that relocation would allow them to break up the vehicles and distribute them to scrapyards without attracting too much attention.

"But we have made a lot of progress with our inquiries in the past couple of weeks and are gathering evidence against the gangs involved."

Gardai are now trying to find owners for the unidentified vehicle parts and the sets of industrial tools while detectives are also trying to establish if other storage depots have been set up elsewhere in the State.

- Tom Brady

Saturday, 27 October 2001

Leading suspect stays away as £8m drugs seized at port

By Tom Brady

Saturday October 27 2001
A SURVEILLANCE operation by Garda and Customs officers on a container with an £8m consignment of herbal cannabis was called off yesterday after a key figure in an international drug trafficking ring failed to show.

Customs officers moved in yesterday morning and seized the 40-foot container which had arrived at Dublin port on a ship from Antwerp on Tuesday.

The container was kept under watch as detectives hoped to trap a suspect alleged to be planning to transport most of the consignment to Britain.

But the operation was eventually abandoned and Customs officers announced their biggest single seizure of herbal cannabis.

This was the third consignment of the drug to have been smuggled into Dublin port in the past eight weeks.

This one originated in Pretoria in South Africa and went to Antwerp before being shipped to Dublin in pallets hidden among a shipment of dried prunes and sultanas.

A small portion of the shipment may have been designed for the home market where the drug is favoured by ethnic groups because of its potency but the traffickers were mainly using Dublin as a transit point for the British market.

High quality herbal cannabis is reckoned to be twice as potent as cannabis resin and has become more popular with regular users.

An initial shipment of three and a half tonnes of herbal was intercepted by Customs eight weeks ago but in consultation with the Garda national drugs unit it was decided to keep the consignment under watch while it was shipped to Britain where six people, including two Irishmen, were arrested.

A further shipment of one tonne was seized here a month ago and a man was arrested in connection with the find.

This resulted in increased co-operation with the South African authorities in an effort to pinpoint the trafficking gang behind the trail to Dublin.

Yesterday's consignment totalled slightly under four tonnes, or 3,992 kilos, which was valued by Customs at £14m but gardai estimated it was worth about £8m on the streets in Britain.

Customs said one man had been arrested but gardai said they had nobody in custody in connection with yesterday's find.

The initial plan was to put surveillance on the shipment at the port while gardai tried to link a suspect to the shipment.

Detectives said last night an investigation was on-going but it was thought that the traffickers had "gone to ground" following the announcement of the find.

The seizure was attributed by Customs officers to a combination of intelligence and profiling techniques.

The three seizures provided the latest evidence that South African smuggling gangs are using this country as a gateway to Britain as well as supplying the local market.

Irish links to the traffickers have been established in the past by detectives and surveillance on flight patterns at Dublin airport have resulted in the seizure of more than 40 smaller shipments of herbal quantities following the arrest of South African suspects.

Inquiries also revealed close connections with trafficking gangs in Britain, particularly in relation to herbal cannabis which is more popular there than here although detectives estimate it will become more prevalent here in coming months and its use will no longer be confined to the ethnic communities.

- Tom Brady

Saturday, 9 June 2001

Drugs war feared after crime boss killed at door

By Ralph Riegel

Saturday June 09 2001
GARDAI in Cork fear a vicious drugs war after a leading gang boss was gunned down at his front door.

Kieran O'Flynn (39), died when a lone gunman called at his door for the second time at Thorndale Estate off Dublin Hill at 11.15pm on Thursday.

The victim was a brother-in-law of Michael Crinion (35), a father of four who was gunned down in a drugs-related killing outside The Clannad pub, in 1995.

No one was ever charged with this slaying. Yesterday, a huge garda manhunt was launched amid fears of reprisals from O'Flynn's crime gang colleagues.

At least three shots were fired through the front door of the Thorndale Estate house.

Gardai believe a professional assassin was involved as the killer returned to the house after the victim's daughter answered the door to an earlier call.

It is understood the victim was answering the door when he was struck in the upper body by two bullets which passed through the door's glass and wood panels.

The killer then stepped into the hallway to fire a third bullet into his victim as he lay on the ground. The killer then fled on foot and is believed to have been picked up by an accomplice in a stolen car.

Last night Mayfield gardai, who have set up a special incident room to concentrate on the murder probe, were examining a Toyota car which was found burned out yesterday afternoon. The car had been stolen last month from Cork's College Road. Following the shooting, the emergency services were called and the victim was rushed to the Mercy Hospital. However, despite efforts by surgeons to save him, the man was pronounced dead a short time later.

The victim's distraught partner, Alison Murray, with her children, had found the father of three lying unconscious in a pool of blood.

The couple had moved into the Thorndale Estate two years ago after having lived previously on the southside.

Yesterday, State Pathologist Dr John Harbison conducted a post mortem and the victim's home remained sealed off as gardai and forensic detectives carried out an examination of the scene.

Kieran O'Flynn was well-known to the Garda and served a drugs-related sentence in the early 1990s after being found on board a boat with almost 50 kilos of cannabis.

Gardai last night declined to comment on the possible motive for the killing.

However, it is suspected that the assassination was linked to a turf war between rival southern drug gangs.

Gardai have appealed to the public for information about a grey Toyota Starlet, registration 98 C 5984.

- Ralph Riegel

Wednesday, 2 May 2001

North's 'CAB' set to target criminals and paramilitaries

By Fergus Black

Wednesday May 02 2001
ALMOST 200 people in Northern Ireland who enjoy lavish lifestyles from the proceeds of crime are to be targeted by a new agency similar to the Republic's highly successful Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB).

This was revealed as members of a Northern Ireland Assembly ad hoc committee on the proceeds of crime yesterday visited the CAB in Dublin to see how the Irish agency operates.

Members of the committee met top officers in the CAB, including its chief bureau officer, Chief Supt Felix McKenna and its legal officer Barry Galvin.

The all-party committee, which was set up last month, has until May 28 to make its submission to the British Home Secretary on proposed new UK legislation to set up a Criminal Assets Recovery Agency.

But the committee wants to see the new agency modelled on the Republic's successful CAB which has been in operation here since 1966 and which has recovered millions of pounds in criminal assets.

Committee chairman Alban Maginness said they wanted to deprive criminals of the benefits of crime.

Evidence given by the RUC to Assembly members revealed 180 people that the RUC could immediately identify as criminals who enjoyed lavish lifestyles.

A recent survey identified 78 criminal gangs operating in the North, about 44 of which were paramilitary gangs and the remainder were criminal.

Criminal activities such as fuel smuggling, cigarette smuggling, money laundering, VAT scams and drugs will top the agenda of the new body, which he hopes would be up and running in a year.

Mr Maginness described yesterday's visit to Dublin by the committee as a valuable lesson in learning and co-operation between North and South.

- Fergus Black

Sunday, 8 April 2001

Drug gangs' spate of turf war killings

Special report: drugs in Britain
Tony Thompson, crime correspondent
The Observer, Sunday 8 April 2001
Drug barons from two of Britain's most crime-ridden cities - Liverpool and Glasgow - have forged an uneasy alliance to traffic millions of pounds worth of heroin, ecstasy and cocaine across the UK and Ireland.
Last week, four Scots, a Liverpudlian and an Irishman were arrested in Dublin following a bloody street battle with gardai. Several police officers were injured. The gang, which had been under observation for three months, included notorious members of the Liverpool and Glasgow underworld. They were caught with six kilos of heroin worth more than £2.5 million.
The seizure - the largest in Dublin for two years - is expected to disrupt supplies in the city. A Garda source said: 'Over the past two years we have noticed that overseas gangs, particularly those from the Liverpool area, have been trying to muscle in on the market here.'
In recent years both Liverpool and Glasgow have lost major gangland figures: Curtis Warren, the multi-millionaire heroin baron from Liverpool is currently serving a lengthy sentence in a Dutch prison while Paul Ferris, the man who took control of Glasgow's underworld following the demise of the Thompson clan, is in prison on firearms charges.
A number of other high profile arrests and seizures in the past two years left Scottish gangs lacking reliable suppliers and allowed the Liverpool-based firms to move in. The supply and distribution networks that were set up proved so sophisticated that they soon expanded into supplying drugs further afield.
The new alliance first emerged during a year-long surveillance operation by the National Crime Squad into the activities of Merseyside man Anthony Parkinson who had allegedly been supplying heroin and ecstasy to Glasgow-based Ian McAteer.
During the police operation, McAteer fell out with Liverpudlian Warren Selkirk, whom he had met in prison some years earlier and who had begun working as a drugs courier.
Fearing he was becoming too much of a liability, McAteer lured Selkirk to Crosby Marina in north Merseyside. Selkirk never returned. His body was found a few days later. He had been shot in the head four times and once in the chest. In his right hand he was clutching a plastic shopping bag full of dog excrement - a sign of McAteer's contempt for his victim.
Once arrested, McAteer threatened to shoot a number of police officers as well as anyone who stood as a witness against him. At least two members of the gang have been given new identities under the Witness Protection Programme in return for testifying against their former colleague.
After his conviction for murder at Liverpool Crown Court last week, it emerged that McAteer had been charged with a previous gangland killing in which a man was stabbed 57 times. He walked free from a Scottish court after a 'not proven' verdict.
Operation Kingsway, the original NCS investigation into the Liverpool-Glasgow connection concluded earlier this year when Parkinson and 10 others were convicted of supplying and distributing heroin and ecstasy.
The recent arrests in Dublin show the network has remained intact. But with rival factions continuing to operate in both cities, police fear a new wave of gangland killings.
Last week the charred bodies of two small-time crooks were discovered in a field in Merseyside following a brutal gangland execution. George Price and Mark Thompson were found face down alongside one another close to the town of Formby. Thompson, 30, had been stabbed in the chest before being shot in the back of the head. Price had been shot in the head several times. Both bodies had been doused in petrol before being set alight.
The deaths are being investigated by a new murder squad, the result of a major re-organisation within Merseyside Police which aims to ensure teams of highly experienced detectives are on hand at the start of a murder investigation.
The killings were the second double murder to take place in Liverpool in the past three years. They are also the latest in a fresh spate of gang warfare. In February 19-year-old Hussein Obad was shot dead in front of his young son. Obad was the prime suspect in a murder which had taken place a year earlier and was also set to be questioned by police over an incident three weeks before he was killed in which a nightclub bouncer had been shot. Obad's murder was the fifth shooting in three weeks.
Liverpool's underworld last hit the headlines in 1996 when a gangland war sprang up after the shooting of David Ungi. Six shootings took place in seven days as rivals battled for control of nightclub door security contracts.
The shootings led to Merseyside becoming one of the first British police forces to sanction officers openly carrying firearms in order to combat gun crime.
Liverpool is rapidly becoming the major distribution centre for heroin in Britain. Last month a separate operation by the NCS recovered 60kg of the drug in a single swoop. 

Sunday, 18 March 2001

John Gilligan, the little man with the big jail term

Sunday Tribune
(1 of 2)
John Gilligan started his working life at the age of 14 as a merchant seaman; just a year later, he began his criminal career, which was to prove far more durable and lucrative, and made him believe that he was invincible. Indeed, several criminals who had worked for and with Gilligan have been murdered. But what did for him in the end was the same as what motivated him at the beginning: greed

ON A Sunday morning in November 1993, the country woke to find that Veronica Guerin had become a household name.

Guerin had just written one of the stories of the decade.

She had tracked down disgraced bishop Eamonn Casey and he had agreed to talk about his affair with Annie Murphy.

The first in her series of interviews was splashed on the front of The Sunday Tribune.

The country was gripped.

Three days after the Casey interview appeared, and while it was still the talk of the pubs, a small man, just the wrong side of 40 and with greying hair, left Portlaoise prison to start his new career. John Gilligan walked out through the prison gates with two things on his mind: an ambitious business plan that would see him become the country's biggest drug trafficker in less than a year and a steely determination never to return to prison.

Within weeks of her Casey scoop, Guerin had also started a new career as crime correspondent of the Sunday Independent. The move would set her on a path that eventually led to John Gilligan's door. In the two years that followed, she would become the country's best-known female journalist and he would become one of the country's most feared criminals.

The Seaman's Son

THE son of a merchant seaman from Ballyfermot in west Dublin, John Gilligan was born in March 1952 and had five sisters and three brothers.

His parents had 11 children, but only nine survived.

Gilligan followed his father's trade, joining the merchant shipping lines at the age of 14 in 1966, travelling mostly between Ireland and Britain.

The following year he got his first conviction for larceny at Rathfarnham District Court.

He was proud of his seafaring record, he told journalists in July 1996, when he denied that he had ordered the Guerin murder. In a bizarre attempt to back up his claims that he was an ordinary working man, Gilligan had taken his seaman's record book to Amsterdam with him the day before the murder.

He showed it to at least one reporter in those days after Guerin's murder, as evidence that he knew what an honest day's work was. He drew their attention to the record number E 10214 to back up the authenticity of the document. He pointed out that the book detailed his conduct as being "very good" during the 36 merchant sailing trips listed there between 1966 and 1980.

But while his seaman's record said one thing, his sea journeys were interrupted with regular trips to prison. By 1978, he had five convictions ? for larceny, receiving stolen goods, stealing, attempted robbery and assault ? and had been sentenced to prison terms totalling three years.

By the 1980s, he was part of a gang of criminals who specialised in raiding warehouses in Dublin suburbs. In January 1986, the gang stole a van belonging to Initial Services, an office sanitation firm that serviced many of the companies. Using the van, the gang gained access to the Nilfisk vacuum cleaner factory in the Cookstown Industrial Estate around closing time. Staff in the factory were tied up and a lorry-load of vacuum cleaners was stolen.

Gilligan was later arrested in a warehouse rented by the gang in the Weatherwell industrial estate along with Finglas man David Weafer. The stolen Nilfisks were also in the warehouse. Weafer pleaded guilty to a charge in relation to the find and was sentenced to two years. Towards the end of his sentence in Mountjoy, he was injured in a stabbing incident.

Gilligan had pleaded not guilty to the Nilfisk job and went before a jury. He was acquitted.

In June 1995, Weafer was shot dead on his doorstep. His murder remains unsolved.

Gilligan was now the centre of attention for gardaí investigating serious crimes. The Central Detective Unit set up a surveillance operation around the Ballymount Road where they believed Gilligan's gang was storing stolen property in a container truck.

In the winter of 1988, while Gilligan was on bail waiting for the Nilfisk trial, gardaí began investigating the theft of £15,000 worth of tools and hardware from Bolger's Hardware, a store in the Co Wexford town of Enniscorthy.

A surveillance operation was set up and Gilligan was arrested in a van on the Ballymount Road in Dublin with three other men. The operation was run by a detective sergeant in CDU Felix McKenna, who is now the chief superintendent in charge of the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB).

In November 1990, Gilligan was brought before the Special Criminal Court and charged with receiving stolen goods (from Bolger's) to the value of £3,062. He was acquitted on the burglary charge, convicted on the receiving charge, and sentenced to four years in prison.

His conviction was the 15th on his record, on a long list including burglary, road traffic offences, larceny and malicious damage.

One of the three other men prosecuted as a result of the operation, Finglas man Christy Delaney, was shot dead in a gangland killing in November 1995. His murder also remains unsolved.

While in Portlaoise, Gilligan injured a senior prison officer and was given a six-month sentence for assault. He was transferred to Cork prison after the assault but returned to Portlaoise to serve out the end of his sentence.

Big John and the Little Man

GILLIGAN had ambitions to become an untouchable. As he celebrated his 40th birthday in Portlaoise, warehouse robberies were becoming less attractive. The spoils of the robberies had to be shared among the gang members. As the criminals faced into their early middle-age they needed to find a more sedentary and reliable livelihood. Like most of his peers who graduated from robberies to drugs, Gilligan had plans to move into the role of an international drugs businessman.

The long hours of his sentence were spent constructively, planning a new venture with his fellow inmates including Paul Ward, Brian Meehan and a senior INLA figure.

While Gilligan gathered his gang around him, another criminal associate, John Traynor, was on the outside making contacts that would prove crucial to their success.

Traynor was, in one sense, a man before his time. He was one of the first Irish criminals to make Amsterdam his own, meeting contacts in the growing drugs trade who could source vast quantities of cannabis for shipping to the Irish market.

Traynor would also become Veronica Guerin's main criminal contact, meeting her and giving her information. In an affidavit prepared for an injunction against the Sunday Independent, which was aired in court after her death, Traynor claimed that he had never willingly given her information. But gardaí believe Traynor enjoyed having contact with a famous journalist.

Back in 1993, Traynor was known as Big John by his Amsterdam friends. When the John (Gilligan) who was known by his associates as 'the little man' arrived on the scene, the network was ready for streamlining into an efficient multinational business.

Gilligan developed Traynor's contacts, who included Moroccan, Dutch, British and Belgian criminals.

One of his contacts was Martin Balthus, a former antiques dealer who was making a good living from white-collar fraud.

Balthus, who is in his 50s, was an important front man for the transfer of Irish currency to Holland in order to pay for the shipments of cannabis. His urbane manner opened doors with financial institutions in Amsterdam and he was soon laundering hundreds of thousands of pounds through Dutch guilder accounts.

In March 1995, Balthus had been sucked irrevocably into the Gilligan gang. One of the associates prevailed on him to do something more than just carry money and he was given a machine gun to transport to a safe house. Unfortunately for Balthus, he was arrested with the weapon, convicted and served a short prison sentence.

Balthus also shipped cannabis for the gang to southern Holland, where the haulage company chosen by Gilligan as the shipping route was based.

He would arrange for the drugs to be packaged in wooden crates and later in cardboard boxes, forwarding invoices and paperwork that made it appear that the crates and boxes contained machine parts.

Balthus gave a statement to the Gilligan investigation. He had been due to appear in court to give evidence about his involvement with the gang. He never appeared in the Special Criminal Court and gardaí have said that he was "persuaded" through threats not to travel to Dublin.

Thomas Ghorst, a Liverpool man in his 50s, was also involved in the continental arm of Gilligan's operation. Ghorst had been living in Belgium since the 1960s, and was based in Antwerp where he lived with his Belgian wife. Under orders from the gang, Ghorst would take money and convert it into whatever currency the drug suppliers needed. But he did not prove to be the most loyal gang member.

Gardaí believe the Liverpudlian may have stung Gilligan for £800,000 and left Belgium shortly after the money disappeared. He is now thought to be living somewhere in Mexico. A third man, a Belgian national who was involved with the gang, has disappeared.

His former associates and the Dutch police believe he is dead.

Gilligan was not a sophisticated money-launderer. Much of his profits were put through bookies' shops, on short-odds bets where Gilligan would collect a 'clean' payout for tens of thousands of pounds. Gardaí analysed his betting fortunes over the two years and found that he was losing an average of 12 per cent of his profits in the sure bets that went wrong.

He also played the casinos in Holland. Gardaí know that one of these casinos was in the holiday resort of Scheveningen, outside the Hague. The resort became notorious last year as the location of the savage murders of three young Irish men.

Gilligan had once tried to buy a huge amount of chips in the casino across the road from the apartment bock where the bodies of the men were found. The casino cashier turned him away, much to Gilligan's disgust.

Setting up The Firm

GILLIGAN and his colleagues referred to the drugs operation as The Firm, gardaí involved in the investigation said. And as businesses went, it had become remarkably successful extremely quickly. By April 1994, just four months after he had been released from prison, Gilligan had started shipping dozens of kilos of cannabis from Holland.

His prison friendships with Ward and Meehan had established them as highly trusted members. And they became two of his five lieutenants.

Ward's brother Shay was also taken onto the payroll as one of the five cannabis wholesalers.

Another Dublin criminal, Peter Mitchell, was the fourth, and he introduced the former soldier, marksman and weapons expert Charlie Bowden to the gang as the fifth member.

Bowden had been working as a bouncer at a Dublin club when Mitchell started to use him as an ecstasy dealer.

Mitchell was his ticket into the Gilligan gang, and he joined the inner circle. His weapons experience and physical bulk were both attractive attributes for the gang.

Paul Ward was the man who co-ordinated the murder of Veronica Guerin from his home in Walkinstown and disposed of the murder weapon and the motorbike. He has always denied this but during his murder trial in 1998, Ward admitted openly that his activities between 1994 and 1996 involved selling tobacco and cannabis for Gilligan's gang.

Ward's job was to meet the customers, usually in the carpark of a pub near his house in Walkinstown, where the customer would hand him a plastic supermarket bag stuffed with cash, sometimes up to £20,000, in exchange for cannabis. The gang charged £2,150 a kilo for the cannabis, a mark-up of almost 100% from the £1,200 Gilligan paid for it in Holland.

Ward would walk through the pub, out the other side, and then home to his house. He could make more than one such collection during the day.

Ward's trial was told that £2,000 of the selling price would be sent to Gilligan. The remaining £150 would be divided equally between his five lieutenants.

Such was the scale of the operation that Ward's £30 profit per kilo had become a total of £300,000 over the two years of the operation. A heroin addict, Ward had spent some of the money on a detox clinic in London for himself and his niece.

He had bought the house in Walkinstown, and spent around £100 a day on his heroin habit. There was little left of his earnings.

At least once a week the cash that Ward collected from customers would be picked up by a courier for delivery to Gilligan.

As the plastic bags of money began stacking up in bewildering amounts, the gang got too busy to count the takings. Russell Warren, a businessman with accounting experience running a failing industrial cleaning firm in west Dublin, was introduced to the gang by a bookmaker who was a neighbour of Warren's parents on Heatherview Drive in Tallaght.

In a move viewed by the courts as despicable, Warren recruited his elderly parents, his sister and her husband into counting the used fivers that Ward had collected from their list of regular customers. The family was paid small amounts, between £50 and £25 per consignment that they counted. Warren told them the money came from smuggled tobacco.

Warren became the gang's bagman. It was his job to deliver the money to Gilligan, often flying to London and Amsterdam to drop off the cash for his boss. By Christmas 1995, he was making regular trips to Europe to deliver money, a job for which he received around £1,000 per trip.

Warren was taken onto the witness protection programme along with Charlie Bowden.

His elderly parents were each given 18-month prison sentences and were kept together during the day in an empty house in the newly built women's prison in Mountjoy.

Warren's father said that he was disgusted by his son's involvement and he and his wife had never spent a night of their 49-year marriage apart.

Warren's evidence was pulled apart by Gilligan's defence team, which pointed out that Warren had admitted perjuring himself in a criminal trial in the 1980s, slept with his friend's wife, and sent his younger sister to deliver money to a criminal associate while he was having the affair. In May 1996, he stole a motorbike from a house in Dun Laoghaire. That bike was later identified as the bike taken in parts from the Liffey following Guerin's murder.

The final white-collar member of the gang was John Dunne, the operations manager of a Cork-based shipping company, Seabridge Ltd. The company was described as a reputable shipping company, used by Gilligan to import drugs under the cover of an innocuous spare-parts trade.

They were taken on a route from the southern Dutch town of Hogerheide by freight company Teca Shipping Services, which had depots in Cork and Holland.

Spare parts from Holland

GARDAÍ believe that Gilligan had initially tried a shipping route through Dublin, and had shipped at least one consignment on the route. But he was more convinced that the Cork route was safer. Documentation showed that goods which had been labelled 'spare parts' from Holland had been shipped in bulk from Holland between April 1994 and October 1996.

The total weight of the shipments, including packaging and anything other than the drugs, was over 20 tonnes.

Dunne would drive the drugs to the Ambassador Hotel in Naas, a handy drop-off point close to the main road. There he would hand over the consignment to various people including Brian Meehan, whom he knew as Joe, and Charles Bowden, who would drive the drugs back to Dublin in a blue Opel Kadett van.

Business did not stop when Dunne was on holidays. When he was away, he used a Cork courier, Dermot Cambridge, to deliver the boxes and collect his money, which he said consisted of an envelope of money, usually £1,000 per job.

Bowden's job also involved finding storage depots for the gang's cannabis from which it could be distributed to customers. In October 1994, he approached the owner of a lock-up garage on Emmet Road in Inchicore, Dublin. Calling himself Andrew Bowden, he paid a £40 deposit for the lockup. The caretaker of the lockup saw wooden crates stacked up to the ceiling.

In December 1994, Bowden rented a second lock-up unit at the Kylemore Industrial Estate using the name Paul Conroy.

After Bowden left with no warning, the owner broke into the lock-up and found empty boxes and styrofoam packaging. In November 1995, 'Paul Conroy' rented a third lock-up at Unit 1B at the Greenmount industrial estate. Bowden paid the £500 month's rent and a month's deposit upfront in cash.

On a Sunday in October 1996, gardaí raided the Greenmount lock-up and found 26 cardboard boxes capable of holding almost a tonne of cannabis resin. One of the boxes contained several nine-ounce bars of cannabis resin. Traces of resin were found in the others.

Employees of the Cork shipping companies identified the boxes as the type that were being shipped from the Dutch freight company.

Squire Gilligan

A MODEST terraced house in Corduff Avenue in Blanchardstown was Gilligan's home when he left Portlaoise prison.

But the criminal had bigger plans for his new lifestyle. He had met and married Geraldine Dunne, the daughter of another Ballyfermot family, in 1974. The couple had two children, Darren and Tracey.

In 1994, Gilligan began buying land from farmers around Enfield in Co Meath, just 30 miles from Dublin city centre.

Throughout that year, Gilligan amassed some 77 acres of land, which, at that stage, cost him under £200,000.

Work started on building a seven-bedroom bungalow and a 3,200-square-metre equestrian centre with stables, outhouses and an apartment for stable workers. The sign on the wall proclaimed Jessbrook Equestrian Centre as "more than a riding school".

Always a keen horseracing man, Gilligan bought a racehorse, Rifawan, which was registered in the name of Cash, a Naas family who were friendly with the Gilligans. The horse went to the stables of Arthur Moore for training and looked like a promising bet.

In 1996, Moore discovered the horse's real owner and returned it and Rifawan was sent to a British trainer. In January 1997, the horse broke its leg during the Burns Cottage novice chase in Ayr in Scotland.

The Jessbrook estate, or the Taj Mahal as some investigating gardaí call it, was an impressive monument to the profits of a cannabis importer.

Its wrought-iron electronic gates are controlled by a closedcircuit television link to the family bungalow. Inside, the house was furnished with heavy Dutch furniture.

Despite his growing wealth, Gilligan did not stray far from his criminal roots, even during the construction of his comfortable county home. Gardaí believe that the windows used in the house were stolen, along with some of the wiring equipment put in place to service the numerous kitchen and laundry appliances. Geraldine's ponies grazed in the fields around the house and an impressive indoor arena with seating for hundreds of horse enthusiasts was taking shape in a field across from the bungalow.

In the meantime, Gilligan had met a 19-year-old woman from Palmerstown at a bookmakers where she worked. The 'little man' would come to her window with bets, often of thousands of pounds, and he began asking her to go out with him. Carol Rooney declined his invitations at first, and then began seeing him.

Gilligan rented a flat in Leixlip for his new girlfriend.

Back home in Jessbrook, family pictures hung on the kitchen wall. Gilligan, his hair still black, stood beside Tracey and a smiling priest on her confirmation day. Beside it hung a mirror inscribed with the names John and Ger. Gilligan ended his marriage to Geraldine in July 1995, putting Jessbrook in her name.

In 1997, the High Court ruled that Geraldine could not be held liable for her husband's £1.6m tax bill, which had been served on him by the Criminal Assets Bureau.

By the end of 1995, with his new girlfriend and a seat in the country, the jigsaw pieces of Gilligan's millionaire lifestyle had fallen into place. The boy who had stood in Rathfarnham district court at the age of 15 on a petty criminal charge had made it to the big time.

Suspicious minds

IN MAY 1995, a piece of legislation which might have seemed like a minor financial regulation for the banking world clicked into place. Under the law financial institutions, banks and building societies, were obliged to report anything they considered to be suspicious activity in a bank account to gardaí.

The bank officials did not have to inform the customer that they had reported the activity to gardaí. They were, however, legally obliged to make a suspicious transaction report if anything unusual was happening to an account.

And there, blinking on a computer screen in the back room of a west Dublin bank, was the tip of one of the country's largest criminal empires.

A bank official noticed that the Lucan bank account of one Geraldine Gilligan had had an enormous amount of money put through it.

The anonymous bank official was puzzled by the level of activity in the accounts of the then 39-year-old Dublin woman. Her only source of income had been disability benefit arising out of an insurance claim following an accident. And yet up to £1 million in cash lodgements had moved through the account over the previous year. Less than four months after it became the law that the gardaí be notified, a suspicious transaction report on Geraldine Gilligan's bank account was forwarded to the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation.

Gardaí ascertained that Geraldine was married to John Gilligan. There could be few sources for such a large amount of cash other than the drugs trade, so by September 1995 gardaí in the fraud squad had held a meeting with the Garda National Drugs Unit.

"Who the fuck is this John Gilligan?" one senior officer was heard to remark as he read the intelligence report from his colleagues in the fraud squad.

For the first time since customs officers and the gardaí had drawn up plans to co-operate on drug interdiction, customs officers were called in to the initial case conference.

Operation Pineapple, as it was called, began with a trawl through John and Geraldine Gilligan's finances. It was a slow process. Less than a year later, that initial groundwork would be taken over by the team investigating Veronica Guerin's murder. The Pineapple file was sent to Lucan Garda station, the investigation headquarters, and the whole country, at that stage, knew that John Gilligan was the main suspect for Guerin's murder.

Veronica Guerin had driven to Jessbrook on 14 September 1995, taking the route out of the city as far as Enfield and turning down the four miles of narrow country roads leading to the Gilligan estate.

Since her Casey interview, she had developed a reputation of approaching and interviewing reluctant subjects, many of them criminals. She was determined that September day to ask John Gilligan where the money to support his lifestyle had come from.

Gilligan has claimed that Guerin did not come through his CCTV-controlled front gate and instead arrived at his back door. He has said that he told her angrily to leave his house and she did. He has denied that he hit her repeatedly, and tore her shirt and jacket in an attempt to see whether she was wearing a recording device.

Gardaí believe that Geraldine and Tracey Gilligan were in the house when Guerin arrived. The reporter told gardaí that Gilligan had assaulted her. A Sunday Independent photographer took a photograph of her bruised face. Friends and family said her encounter with Gilligan had traumatised her more than the gun attack she had suffered on the doorstep of her north Dublin home in January of that year.

She began legal proceedings against Gilligan. Her first step was a visit to senior counsel Felix McEnroy in his office the following day. One of her two mobile phones rang while she was in the barrister's office, McEnroy told the court. Gardaí believe that the voice she heard first was that of John Traynor, warning her not to take any action against Gilligan for the alleged assault.

Gardaí believe that Traynor was with Gilligan when he made the call to the reporter.

Gilligan took the phone from his associate and started speaking furiously to Guerin. McEnroy, who had once represented Gilligan and said his was a voice not easily forgotten, overheard the call.

"I will kidnap your fucking son and ride him, " Gilligan hissed down the phone. "I will fucking shoot you. I will fucking kill you." Last week, the Special Criminal Court accepted that Gilligan had issued those threats. He had admitted so in a Sunday Tribune interview with former crime journalist Liz Allen.

He said he had been angry and when he made the threats he did not mean them.

When gardaí searched the houses of suspects after the murder they found a ticket receipt from Peat's, the video and electronics store. One of the gang members had dropped in a holiday video to get it copied, and the video was left forgotten. When gardaí in Lucan picked it up from Peat's they watched an extraordinary scene.

John and Geraldine Gilligan had travelled to the wedding of Meehan's sister Lesley at the exclusive Sandals couples-only resort on St Lucia in March 1996. The Meehan parents, Kevin and Frances, were there, as were their sons Brian and Bradford, and Peter Mitchell.

Three Dublin sisters were there as the companions of the Meehan brothers and Mitchell.

The gang was sitting around the pool drinking when Brian Meehan raised a glass to the camera and proposed a toast to Veronica. They started laughing at Gilligan, joking "crime doesn't pay".

Leaving for Amsterdam

THE day before Guerin's murder, John Gilligan met two gardaí outside Kilcock District Court, where the assault proceedings were due to start.

They gave evidence that Gilligan made a disparaging remark about Guerin and her case against him.

Afterwards, Gilligan's solicitor drove him to Jessbrook, where Gilligan said he wanted to show him the scene of the alleged assault, and then on to the airport. Gilligan was catching a flight to Amsterdam.

He had bought his £506.94 first-class ticket at the Aer Lingus desk on 13 June, 12 days before he left the country. Gardaí believe he may have checked in on that ticket on the day, going to the Aer Lingus business class lounge and then returning through the check-in desk, saying that he had changed his mind and would not be flying. It was a device he used frequently on his Gold Circle tickets. If he checked in and was issued with a boarding pass, it would appear to anyone asking questions that he had actually travelled on that date.

If he was under surveillance he could point to computer evidence from the airline that he had checked in for a flight on a previous date. Because his ticket was the flexible businessclass fare he could leave the departure lounge and check in again on a future date without losing the price of his fare.

His then girlfriend, Carol Rooney, was also on the flight to Amsterdam that day. Gilligan had rented a house in Belgium and travelled there from Amsterdam airport.
2001-03-18 12:00:00John Gilligan, the little man with the big jail term (2 of 2)
Gardaí believe Gilligan only returned to Ireland once after he left on 25 June 1996, when he attended his wife's 40th birthday at the Spa Hotel in Lucan at the end of September. Gardaí believe a row developed between Geraldine and John and that Gilligan gave her a beating at the end of the night.

By October 1996, Russell Warren had been arrested and Gilligan's money supply was threatened. An associate flew to London to meet Gilligan and give him a silver suitcase packed with sterling and Irish currency to the value of £330,000. As Gilligan went to board a flight to Amsterdam at Heathrow airport he was arrested by British customs officers and charged with drug trafficking. Gilligan's legal team argued that the charges were designed to keep Gilligan in custody in Belmarsh high security prison until he could be extradited to face charges in Ireland.

His cell in Belmarsh was a long way from the life he had planned for himself. "He planned to come back and be lord of the manor, running Jessbrook, " a senior Garda source said last week. "He was making some inroads with the horsey set but he'd be getting himself accepted and then he'd lapse into character. He had started bullying his neighbours and the county council, using the same fear tactics he used in his criminal life." The official Bord Fáilte sign for Jessbrook is still on a roadsign pole near the equestrian centre. But the expensive automatic gates are covered in green mildewy moss and the paddocks have been let go to scrub land.

"If he'd walked away from the drugs empire, he could be sunning himself on some beach now, " a Garda source said last week. "But because he couldn't go without the money, he got caught."
2001-03-18 12:00:00

Thursday, 15 March 2001

Man cleared of Veronica Guerin's murder

Staff and agencies, Thursday 15 March 2001 14.05 GMT
John Gilligan was today cleared at Dublin's special criminal court of ordering the murder of Irish investigative journalist Veronica Guerin.
Gilligan, 48, was also cleared of four charges of possessing firearms and ammunition but was found guilty of 11 charges of importing cannabis resin into Ireland.
Judge Diarmuid O'Donovan told the packed non-jury court that he had "grave suspicions" about Gilligan's involvement in the 1996 shooting of Guerin, 37, who had received death threats after exposing Dublin's drugs gangs.
But the judge said the uncorroborated evidence of Gilligan's former criminal associates was not enough to convict him. Gilligan was extradited from England to face trial.
Ms Guerin, a crime reporter with the Sunday Independent newspaper, was shot six times as she sat in her car on the outskirts of Dublin on June 26, 1996. Her death sparked public outrage and one of the biggest murder investigations in the history of the state.
Two men, Paul Ward and Brian Meehan, are currently serving life sentences following their convictions for her murder in 1998 and 1999 respectively. The prosecution alleged that the pair acted under the "control and command" of Gilligan.
Three former criminal associates of Gilligan, all now serving time in jail while under the state's witness protection programme, gave evidence against him during the course of his 43-day trial.
Judge O'Donovan said while there was independent evidence to corroborate the allegation that Gilligan was the "prime mover" in a massive drug importation racket, he must be acquitted on the separate weapons-related charge and the most serious offence of murder.
The judge told the court that despite his suspicions of Gilligan's role in the murder: "The court is not persuaded beyond reasonable doubt that this is so. And therefore the court is required by law to acquit the accused on that charge."
Terence McDonald, defending, described Russell Warren's account of witnessing the murder of the journalist as "a complete fabrication". Mr McDonald said that Warren, currently serving five years for money laundering and for stealing the motorbike used in Ms Guerin's shooting, must be treated "potentially as an accomplice in the murder of Veronica Guerin".
Judge O'Donovan said in delivering the court's verdict: "It is the view of the court that the only evidence which was heard that could possibly implicate (Gilligan) in the murder of Veronica Guerin was that of Russell Warren.
"His evidence is so suspect that the interests of justice demand that it not be relied upon except when corroborated by independent evidence." There was, however, "no corroboration whatsoever".