'Biggest drug dealer in the Mid-West' faces massive legal bill after losing CAB appeal

Grandad John McCormack faces massive costs as his home and plot of land is seized
John McCormack

John McCormack

Nicola Tallant

A criminal grandad described in court as the biggest drug dealer in the mid west could be facing a hefty legal bill running to hundreds of thousands of euro after losing an appeal against a Criminal Assets Bureau judgement.

John McCormack has lost his family home and a plot of land in Co. Clare after the Bureau took a Proceeds of Crime case against him and now he may have to pay the legal costs incurred for his four day battle in the High Court and his failed bid in the Court of Appeal.

In a judgement, he was told that the Appeals Court have taken a provisional view that 'having been wholly successful in this appeal, CAB is entitled to its costs', allowing McCormack to contest that at a further hearing if he wishes.

McCormack has been left bruised by his attempts to battle the Bureau, first in the High Court where details of his long history in criminality, his secret property portfolio and his extravagant lifestyle were laid bare.

Proceedings have heard that he and others have been responsible for the importation into Ireland of 'vast quantities of drugs…since the late 1990s' along with cash in transit robberies and handling stolen goods.

The Bureau said he holidayed in the sun and bought up four properties on the Canary Islands, at least one of which has no mortgage, which remain out of reach of the CAB for the moment.

McCormack decided to go to battle with the CAB rather than settle his case with them, and insisted his fortune came from wedding presents, personal injury claims, lottery wins and even earnings from breeding dogs.

His fate is a warning for others hoping to outwit the eagle-eyed Judge Alexander Owens, who presides over the CAB cases that come before the courts every month.

McCormack had hoped that his complex financial affairs involving sporadic tax returns, a network of bank accounts and a variety of business interests would blindside the courts as he tried to claim he bought his properties with legitimate income.

At one point he tried to argue, as he sought free legal aid, that he should not be expected to sell up any of the Canary Island homes to foot his own legal bill as the housing market there had suffered from the Covid-19 pandemic and he would not be realising their full potential value.

Although CAB could not look to seize the properties, three of which are located on Fuerteventura, it was able to rely on the purchase of them as evidence that McCormack had amassed his wealth from the proceeds of crime.

Ironically, during the course of the hearings the criminal career and money- laundering secrets of wily underworld criminal McCormack emerged as he denied he had anything to do with gangland.

Addressing the Proceeds of Crime case, Detective Sergeant Kevin O'Hagan, who has worked in Shannon for more than 10 years, described McCormack as a career criminal who has been selling drugs in the area for three decades.

He told the High Court that in the 1990s McCormack fell foul of a subversive organisation and had to leave Ireland but became the leader of an organised crime gang based in Limerick around 2001. The group, the detective sergeant said, was involved in large-scale importation and distribution of drugs into Ireland.

Among the many seizures liked to McCormack and the outfit was one of 37kgs of cannabis in Ballina, Co. Tipperary dating back to 1999.

The court heard that McCormack had direct involvement in sourcing and moving those drugs. Three years later, McCormack's wife, Helen Collopy McCormack, was found with Stg£9,500 counterfeit which gardaí said was believed to be part of the criminal enterprise.

He was also named as the criminal behind an attempted cash-in-transit robbery in Clare on June 24, 2005, which was busted by gardaí.

He was also the central figure in an investigation carried out by the Garda National Drugs Unit in 2005 which established that 1.5kgs of cannabis and 500kgs of cocaine were to be purchased on mainland Europe for importation into Ireland and that McCormack and another man brought €270,000 to Spain for the purchase.

In February 2008 gardaí recovered €8,500 of stolen Canterbury Rugby clothing from a car stopped leaving one of McCormack's properties at Cloontra. The clothes had been stolen from Dublin Port six months previously.

Three properties in Ireland were identified during the proceedings, including his family home at Purcell Park in Shannon and the land at Cloontra West at Sixmilebridge complete with outhouses, kennels, stables and a showjumping arena.

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