Sunday June 11th 2006
THE drug trafficking routes set up by Factory John Gilligan before he was arrested for the murder of Veronica Guerin are still intact.
And on his release from prison in three years, he is expected to move to Spain, where he and his wife are the beneficial owners of properties worth millions.
Gilligan's wife Geraldine, who is now based in Spain, has denied she is a godmother of crime.
Senior Garda sources say that Gilligan's operations were severely disrupted for some years, but were eventually put back in place.
Now based in Spain, his operation works more on a wholesale basis, using a network of former associates in Ireland to distribute the drugs.
The same applies for a number of other major Dublin criminals who moved to Spain and the Netherlands to avoid the attentions of the Criminal Assets Bureau, set up after the journalist's murder.
Gilligan's family, particularly his wife Geraldine and daughter Tracey, moved to the Alicante area some years ago. Among the properties they are known to have control over is a pub formerly owned by one of Gilligan's lieutenants, Liam Judge, who died in suspicions circumstances in an apartment he once shared with Tracey Gilligan, in Alicante in December 2003.
The previous year, Judge's ex-wife had been abducted by armed men from her home in Newcastle, Co Dublin, then released in circumstances which still remain mysterious. The Gilligans are now believed to be the beneficial owners of Judge's former pub in Torrevieja, The Judge's Chambers, among other properties.
An RTE Prime Time investigation into Gilligan and other Irish criminals now living abroad, to be shown tomorrow night, is due to give details of the Gilligan property portfolio in Spain, along with the dealings of other Irish criminals. RTE has been investigating the Irish criminals abroad for the past five months.
According to senior Garda sources yesterday, it is now accepted that Gilligan's drug operations are back in place.
The supply route from Spain reaches Ireland by a well-organised transport network and gardai suspect that former, or even still serving, members of the IRA - involved in cigarette smuggling - are in cahoots with Gilligan's associates in the south of Spain.
A former republican paramilitary from the Tallaght area, who once held a minor position in Gilligan's Dublin operations, is now believed to be in charge of the distribution networks in Ireland. He has never been arrested for serious offences and has only minor convictions.
Prime Time is understood to have identified 12 properties in Alicante which are beneficially owned by the Gilligans, though they may have more commercial and residential investments in Spain. Gilligan was contacted by RTE and remains belligerent and defiant. "None of my money is wrongly got. None of my property is wrongly got. I can account for that when I have to, and when I'm good and f***ing ready I'll account for that," he says.
Prime Time says Gilligan organised the investments while he was awaiting trial for the murder of Sunday Independent journalist Veronica Guerin. Gilligan was acquitted - in spite of grave reservations expressed by the trial judges - but he was convicted of running a drugs empire.
He has served close to 10 years but his initial sentence of 22 years was reduced on appeal, and he is due for release in three years.
Prime Time is believed to claim that Gilligan is running a new drugs operation from behind bars in Portlaoise Prison. It is known that mobile phones and multiple SIM cards have been smuggled into the prison and are being used to keep in contact with criminals on the outside.
The documentary includes an interview with Gilligan's wife Geraldine, who is now based in Spain. Asked about her alleged role as a godmother of crime, she says: "That is bollocks. I am not the godmother of crime. I have never been anywhere near crime; how can I answer that."
The programme, The Irish Connection, says more than 100 expatriate dealers are now based in continental Europe. It also focuses on what the programme makers say is still Ireland's biggest drugs operation, run by George 'The Penguin' Mitchell, who moved to Holland several years ago to avoid the attentions of CAB.
The programme makers filmed Mitchell making calls from public phone boxes, in the apparent belief that it was a safe way to communicate.
The programme includes an interview with the head of the Dutch Serious Crime Squad, Tom Dreissen, who says of the Mitchell footage: "Criminals worldwide innovate constantly. They anticipate how we work as a law enforcement agency.
"Our task is to keep on track with them. We try to learn from them too. They innovate their methods, they try to communicate in ways that we can't trace down - so it doesn't surprise me that they act like this."
However, gardai interviewed on the programme express serious concern about the apparent ease with which Mitchell operates in Holland.
The documentary, to be screened at 9.30pm tomorrow night, will also feature an interview with former Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne.