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Man to be extradited to face charges in journalist’s murder

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — The man gardai say is the leader of the country’s most notorious criminal gang is expected to be extradited from Britain later this month to become the third person to face charges of murdering journalist Veronica Guerin in June 1996.

John Gilligan’s three-year battle against extradition ended in about 15 minutes when five British law lords threw out his appeal last week instead of the normal procedure of reserving their judgment.

After Guerin was shot by a pillion-seat assassin on a motorcycle when she was stopped in her car at traffic lights, Gilligan only managed to remain active at the top of his crime empire for just five months.

Customs officers at Heathrow Airport detained him in October 1996 carrying £330,000 in used notes when he was on his way to Amsterdam. He was charged with money-laundering offenses.

It wasn’t until the following August that the huge Garda team investigating the Guerin killing sent Scotland Yard colleagues murder, drugs and firearms warrants.

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One of the central planks of Gilligan’s fight against extradition was that the money-laundering charges in Britain were a holding exercise until the gardai served their warrants. The law lords rejected it.

Five members of Gilligan’s gang are now in prison.

Brian "The Tosser" Meehan, who gardai claim was the second in command and drove the motorcycle used in the Guerin killing, was convicted of murder in July by the three judge, no jury Special Criminal Court.

Last November, Paul "Hippo" Ward was also found guilty of the murder. Gardai say he disposed of both the pistol and the motorcycle used in the shooting.

Two other members of the gang, Charles Bowden, the gang’s armorer and Russell Warren, its bagman, are held under the State’s first witness-protection program. They were found guilty of charges connected with their role in the gang.

When the fifth man, Patrick "Dutchy" Holland, was given 20 years for drug offenses in 1997, a policewomen told the court that gardai believed he was responsible for Guerin’s murder. His sentence was later reduced to 12 years.

Their crime empire, which had imported and distributed drugs worth over £180 million between 1994 and 1996 alone, is now largely destroyed by a raft of new legislation.

The Criminal Assets Bureau has seized much of the cash and property they had stashed away from the profits they made from importing and distributing an estimated 20,700 kilos of cannabis.

Other suspected top members of the gang remain abroad.

Guerin had continued covering the activities of the drug gang despite having been attacked several times before her murder. She was shot in the thigh while at her Dublin home in January 1995 and was beaten up.

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