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Spanish police allege John Gilligan was running drugs and guns in Spain

The same model of gun used to kill Veronica Guerin was also discovered.

Image: Policia Nacional

SPANISH POLICE HAVE said they arrested veteran gangland criminal John Gilligan in relation to alleged connections to drugs and arms trafficking. 

The Policia Nacional said it conducted an operation with the help of gardaí and the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA).

It emerged yesterday that Gilligan, along with his son and four other people, had been arrested in Alicante earlier this week. 

Four kilos of cannabis and 15,000 pills were seized by the police as part of the operation.

Officers also said a revolver was also found buried in a garden. It is of the same make and model as the one used in the murder of Veronica Guerin in 1996, the Policia Nacional said in a statement today.

Police are investigating the link but security sources here told TheJournal.ie that it would be “highly unlikely that it’s the exact same weapon”. Brian Meehan was convicted of Guerin’s murder in 1999. Meehan was part of John Gilligan’s drug gang. 

In a statement, Spanish police said: “Those arrested, led by a well-known Irish criminal, were part of a violent group of drug and arms traffickers and specialised in sending illegal merchandise from Spain to the United Kingdom and Ireland through parcels.”

Police started their investigation last year after it was discovered the suspects had settled in the Torrevieja area of Spain, today’s statement said.

Officers contacted gardaí who were able to help the Spanish authorities identify the other members of the gang. 

Screenshot 2020-10-23 at 1.28.37 PM The gun discovered buried in the garden. Source: Policia Nacional

This arrest comes almost a full year after a case against Gilligan was dismissed by a Northern Ireland court.

His case was dismissed by Coleraine Magistrate’s Court after he was stopped at Belfast International Airport with €22,280 in cash, as he was about to board a flight to Alicante in Spain.

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Prosecutors argued that he intended to purchase a prescription drug in Spain for distribution on the Irish drugs market. His defence said it was a tenuous case.

Gilligan was acquitted of the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin in 2001, but was sentenced to 28 years in prison for drug trafficking that same year.

In a statement this morning gardaí said the force was aware of the press release from Spanish police, adding:

“An Garda Síochána is working closely with the Spanish National Police in relation to this investigation.”

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