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John Gilligan was fleeing country after death threat, court hears

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BT Coleraine

A Dublin man who was arrested while attempting to board a flight from Belfast with more than 22,000 euro was trying to flee the country following a death threat, a court has heard.

John Gilligan, 67, was arrested last August by Border Force officers before boarding a flight to Spain at Belfast International Airport.

Approximately 22,280 euro (£19,648) was recovered in a suitcase.

The defendant, from Greenforth Crescent, is charged with attempting to remove criminal property from Northern Ireland.

Gilligan was due to contest the money laundering charge at Coleraine Magistrates’ Court in Co Londonderry on Thursday.

However, the case was adjourned following an agreed application by the defence barrister and the prosecutor.

Sean Devine, defence barrister for Gilligan, told the court that his client was travelling out of Belfast because his life was under threat.

Mr Devine also said that one of the issues is whether the money that was recovered was criminal property.

Deputy district judge Peter King said that is what the Crown has to prove.

“It’s a high hurdle for the Crown to get over,” he added.

Mr Devine said that correspondence he received from authorities in the Republic last month said that Gilligan was involved in “drugs-related activity” two decades ago.

The defence barrister added that he was not sure whether gardai were aware of the immediacy of the death threat.

“This is case where the emphasis is going back to the material from the mid-1990s,” he added.

“It seems that the (Irish) authorities say he was involved in drug-related activity in the mid-1990s so therefore this money must be related to that.”

Mr Devine also said that a garda superintendent gave details about a previous threat in 2013 that is relevant to the case.

Up to 20 witnesses travelled to Coleraine court to give evidence in the contest.

Some of the agreed witnesses included staff from Border Force, the National Crime Agency, easyJet and Ryanair.

Mr Devine also asked the judge to make an order that would prevent the press from publishing the next hearing date.

“The reasons he (Gilligan) was leaving and had to live a chaotic lifestyle as he did, was because he has survived previous assassination attempts,” he added.

The judge, however refused the request and scheduled a hearing for next month.

The judge added that it was “regrettable” that the case had to be adjourned.

The court also heard that legal services have not confirmed whether the defendant will be eligible for legal aid.

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