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Jim Mansfield Jnr had a whiff of sulphur around him and he tried to silence questions

Jim Mansfiled jnr denied all links to organised crime when confronted outside the court

Jim Mansfield Jr. speaks to Sunday World's Nicola Tallant at the Bridewell Court, Dublin.

Nicola Tallant

I saw the big black car pull up outside Dublin District Court and watched as Jim Mansfield Jnr, dressed in a striped shirt and grey overcoat, stepped out.

Flanked by his daughter, Ingrid, the two made their way towards the entrance to the busy Bridewell courts where accused, witnesses and lawyers were gathered in a rowdy rabble.

I stepped into his path and smiled. It was March 2015, the family patriarch Jim Mansfield Snr was dead, his empire lay in ruins and now the Criminal Assets Bureau was on Junior's tail.

Just months previous CAB had sensationally raided a string of Mansfield properties and premises and detectives were following a money trail linked to organised crime gangs involved in drug running, paramilitary activity and even murder that were leading right back to the door of the family's Tasaggart House.

Katie French and Jim Mansfield in 2007

The glory days were well and truly over but the confidence, the swagger and the belief that he was untouchable was still there, and the grin on Jimmy Jnr's face told me that I was just a speck, a lowly crime journalist with a few insignificant questions to ask.

I had been trying to track down Mansfield for weeks, but given that he lived at Tassagart, a vast walled property beside Citywest Hotel with 24-hour security on the gate, and had a team on hand at his workplace in Finnstown House Hotel to fob off callers, it had been difficult.

Mansfield was appearing at the court in an effort to get his driving licence back after he was caught drunk behind the wheel of a high-end Porsche in 2011. He gave his address as Coldwater Lakes at the time.

He stopped in front of me, the blonde Ingrid at his side. At 21, she was then listed as a director of Finnstown House Hotel - one of the businesses her grandfather lost when he went into liquidation, owing more than €300million to the banks.

IRA man Nathan Kinsella meeting with Jimmy Mansfield jr at Mondello Park

It had been bought back a year previously, or so the records showed, by a Dundalk businessman for €4.5million, who then chose Ingrid and her brother Samuel to be the new directors.

"I'm not interested in your driving licence," I told him, as he slowed his pace and stared at me with a bemused grin.

"I want to talk to you about organised crime and about the raids on your properties, your home and your business interests by the Garda's Organised Crime Unit. Will you co-operate with the investigation into any involvement you may have with organised crime?"

"I will," he said with confidence. "We will. There is nothing to hide. I will phone you later."

"Have you any involvement in organised crime?" I pressed. "No, none, none. Tell you what, I will phone you later," he replied, as the two laughed off my questions.

I continued: "Your late father once felt it necessary to speak up and distance himself from drug dealing. Is it time for you to do the same now?"

He stopped for an instant and glared. "It is time. We have nothing to do with drug dealing. I will call you later."

Jim Mansfield Jr speaks to Nicola Tallant

"Are you on a GIM (Garda Information Message), are you concerned about your security," I asked, as he walked away knowing he had been issued with a warning by gardai that there was a credible threat to his life.

That drew the biggest laugh of all. "The only security I need is her. I'll phone," he said, placing his arm around Ingrid's shoulder and walking into the court.

He never called.

I walked away confused, wondering had I got it all wrong. Was it possible for someone to remain so calm and carefree in the face of such questioning? Had my sources steered me wrong?

My stomach lurched briefly. Was it not true that Jim Mansfield Snr had been the banker to the underworld and the paramilitaries and that he had washed millions through the Citywest empire, that his son had taken up the mantle?

Later, I began writing what I knew and what a brave newspaper called the Sunday World stood alone to publish, that they were not only linked to organised crime but that they were part of it.

Jim Mansfield in City West. Photo: Tony Gavin

Since 2011, when Jim Mansfield Snr's HSS group of companies were put into voluntary liquidation - owing hundreds of millions to NAMA and the Bank of Scotland - the house of cards had fallen and from the ashes had come the stories of the INLA, the Real IRA, the Provos, the drug dealers, the gangs and the Traveller mobs who had been left scrambling for their investment money back.

I'd heard how they had put together a plan to claw back some wealth, had been running scams to raise funds to pay off the criminals in order of importance and about the house at Coldwater - once the residence of Anne Mansfield - where members of the Kinahan organisation were then residing.

We published what we could, but Mansfield Jnr hit back and legal correspondence soon arrived to our office demanding apologies, compensation and denying all allegations of links to organised crime, money laundering and nefarious practices.

A full legal case was threatened if we didn't pay up and say sorry. We held our ground.

The Sunday World wasn't the only target. Mansfield lashed out with legal letters and threats to gardai and he even wrote to then Taoiseach Enda Kenny to complain about the raids and the fact officers had carried guns and worn balaclavas - standard protocol during investigations involving organised crime.

There was always a whiff of sulphur around Mansfield but he was quick to quieten those who tried to dig.

Jim Mansfield Jr. File photo: Collins

Jim Jnr had lived at the stunning Palmerstown House until it was seized as part of a debt recovery process. It was there that he had entertained the model Katy French, with whom he was previously in a relationship.

The pair were no longer together at the time of her death from a cocaine overdose.

He had previously gifted her an apartment in Citywest and a new Range Rover from his friend, the car dealer Lee Cullen, who in 2006 made a €2.1million payment to CAB.

It was at that same time that the Mansfield Snr first had to disassociate himself from drugs and crime. Then, a consignment of drugs bound for Weston Airport on an airplane registered to Jim Mansfield Snr was stopped in Belgium.

Former champion boxer John Kinsella got 12 years for his part in the conspiracy, but refused to ever name who "the big fella" was that he referred to in taped phone conversations.

During his defence of his family, the late Jim Mansfield Snr said: "I've heard the rumours, but they don't bother me in the slightest. It's a load of absolute nonsense. A lot of it is down to jealousy."

Businessman Jim Mansfield Snr at his Weston Airport in West Dublin.

That day outside the Bridewell, his son proffered no explanation as to why the family was yet again embroiled in rumours of links to crime.

However, in his letter to Mr Kenny it is understood he said that various Irish authorities were involved in "dark games".

As the years went on the garda investigations continued. Last year, Mansfield Jnr was brought before the Special Criminal Court where he was convicted of perverting the course of justice but acquitted of kidnap.

This week in the High Court, the Criminal Assets Bureau said he had accepted delivery of €4.5 million in cash from Daniel Kinahan and Thomas 'Bomber' Kavanagh, the two biggest figures in Irish organised crime this century.

The money, delivered in two suitcases, was to be washed or laundered into properties but, instead, it went into the sink-hole of debt and No.10 Coldwater Lakes was handed over in compensation.

All the while, Jimmy Jnr offered himself up in glowing interviews about his business prowess, how he had brought his father's empire back from the brink and about how he was a hard-working legitimate businessman.

Today, his reputation lies in ruins, but still his lawyers say he is persisting with his damages claims against the Sunday World, that he has done nothing wrong.

One of us is a fantasist but it seems the tide has turned and the grin is fast fading.

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