Firearms probe | 

Crime figure John Gilligan held by Spanish cops after gun seized

John Gilligan

John Gilligan

Gerard Couzens

Convicted drug dealer John Gilligan has been arrested in Spain following the discovery of a gun.

The 68-year-old was held on the Costa Blanca.

Spanish police have yet to make any official comment on the arrest.

But well-placed sources said it was carried out by a specialist unit of Spain’s National Police called GRECO set up to respond to organised crime.

Another said it followed the discovery of a weapon in the garden of a commercial premises near Alicante but added Gilligan was suspected of sending prescription drugs from Spain to Ireland and the UK.

Ballistics experts are now understood to be analysing the weapon.

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.

The Irishman was arrested at Belfast International Airport in 2018 with more than €20,000 in his baggage ahead of a flight to Alicante.

Prosecutors at the time said he intended to purchase a prescription drug, Zopiclone, in Spain for distribution on the Irish drug market.

Zopiclone or ‘zimos’ are sold by street dealers to addicts.

Gilligan denied the claims. The case was ultimately dismissed by a judge who said suspicion was insufficient to warrant a conviction in criminal courts.

He has long enjoyed ties to the Costa Blanca. The family once ran a pub there but sold it before he was released from prison.

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