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smash and cab Mobster Liam Byrne's cronies holidayed in Vegas and Dubai while applying for legal aid

New TV series exposes gangsters' lies about finances

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Liam Byrne and Simoan McEnroe

Liam Byrne and Simoan McEnroe

Liam Byrne and Simoan McEnroe

BRAZEN associates of mobster Liam Byrne tried to book luxury holidays in Dubai and Las Vegas - while at the same time applying for legal aid in their battle with CAB.

That's one of the startling revelations in a new series about the Criminal Assets Bureau which starts next week on Virgin Media One.

The case brought by CAB against Kinahan Cartel lieutenant Liam Byrne and his associates has been one of the stand-out successes for the crime-fighting agency in recent years.

But before the case was completed, some of Byrne's associates tried to take a leaf out of gangster John Gilligan's book by applying for free legal aid to fight the case.

It's estimated that Gilligan - whose gang was responsible for the murder of crime journalist Veronica Guerin - has cost the State as much as €10m in free legal aid over 19 years of failed litigation to stop the seizure of his assets.

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Convicted drug dealer John Gilligan in Dublin in 2016

Convicted drug dealer John Gilligan in Dublin in 2016

Convicted drug dealer John Gilligan in Dublin in 2016

But in July 2017, six applications, which were made on behalf of Kelly Quinn, Sean McGovern, Anita Freeman, James Byrne, Sadie Byrne, and Liam Roe - for free legal aid were dismissed in the High Court.

James and Sadie Byrne are gangster Liam's parents while Kelly Quinn was his brother David's partner. Liam 'Bop' Roe and Sean McGovern were named by CAB as two members of the Byrne Organised Crime Group. McGovern's girlfriend, Anita Freeman, was the sixth person named in the case.

But the assets recovery agency was able to prove that the group of six, was able to take luxury holidays to Dubai and Las Vegas despite asking for free legal aid.

"The six individuals that applied for legal aid, we were able to demonstrate to the court that they had been on very expensive holidays to Dubai, some had gone to UFC fights in Las Vegas.

"Some had been scheduled to actually travel to Las Vegas on the very week the legal application was being made," reveals CAB legal officer Kevin McMeel.

Pat Clavin, former CAB Chief Bureau Officer, recalled how Byrne's wing of the Kinahan cartel was first targeted in 2016.

"CAB conducted a number of searches, in particular in relation to a garage enterprise in Dublin known as LS Active Parts. CAB looked at their sales activity before the search and found there wasn't a single vehicle sold. I think at the time our senior counsel said it should have been called LS Inactive Cars rather than LS Active Cars," he smiled.

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Sunday World Investigations Editor Nicola Tallant remembers observing the to-and-fro at the garage.

"We would see them one day in a Mercedes G Wagon thing [worth] €180,000, somebody told me at one stage. The next day they'd be in a Rolls Royce. They actually had a Rolls Royce come to the family home for a debs ball to bring a teenager and his partner to a debs.

"They were the biggest spenders in town. It was like the Criminal Assets Bureau had never happened," she remarked.

CAB also looked at a property Byrne lived at in Raleigh Square, which was one of a group of houses owned by his parents and extended members of his family.

Byrne spent a huge amount of money renovating and extending his house.

"They [State officials] estimated that €750,000 had been spent on renovations on the house," explains Pat Clavin, who is now an Assistant Commissioner.

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Pat Clavin

Pat Clavin

Pat Clavin

"This was disputed by the Organised Crime Group, who admitted there was €600,000 spent on it. So all we were arguing about was €150,000 on renovations.

"It wouldn't be to everybody's taste, but I suppose in the community it looked like a palace; that's the best thing that could be said about it."

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Criminal John Gilligan's property which was seized

Criminal John Gilligan's property which was seized

Criminal John Gilligan's property which was seized

Michael Gubbins, the current CAB Chief Bureau Officer, points out the sums spent on the house were evident.

"You could see the money. It's in the standard of the finish within the house. Some of these houses also have bulletproof windows and doors. So it's to that level of standard that these individuals are spending their proceeds of crime," he says.

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Michael Gubbins

Michael Gubbins

Michael Gubbins

Pat Clavin said a legal process was initiated in February 2017 after searches the previous year, but there were applications by Byrne and five others for free legal aid.

"We were able to paint a picture of people who seemed to have wealth beyond their visible means, and ultimately the High Court rejected their application for legal aid. It meant that by 2018 a full order under the Proceeds of Crime Act was obtained and CAB was able to move very quickly to take possession of property, to sell the vehicles, to dispose of the other assets," he says.

"It's very important in a local community that is suffering from the ill-effects of drugs like heroin and cocaine, it's very important that CAB is seen to go in and take over that house with the bulletproof windows and doors, with all the bling. And you know it goes down really well when CAB boards up the windows with steel shuttering, and ultimately it's put up for sale."

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Cash seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau

Cash seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau

Cash seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau

John Gilligan cost the State as much as €10 million in his free legal aid support when he unsuccessfully tried to stop the seizure of his equestrian centre and several houses he and his family owned.

"In February 2017 the Supreme Court delivered its final judgement in relation to the final assets of John Gilligan, in relation to the house at Jessbrook, a house in Blanchardstown and a house in Lucan. It was very, very rewarding for all my colleagues past and present that finally that case was dealt with," Assistant Commissioner Clavin says.

Kevin McMeel confirms it's the longest litigation CAB has had.

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Cash seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau

Cash seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau

Cash seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau

"It took somewhere in the region of 19 years from start to finish. But in many ways it was vitally important. Not only was Mr Gilligan partly responsible for the establishment of the Bureau but he is almost wholly responsible for making air tight and constitutionally sound the legislation under which the Bureau operates... those challenges can't be taken again," he says.

Besides Gilligan and Byrne, several other people are examined in the first episode, including George 'The Penguin' Mitchell, crypto currency criminal Clifton Collins and bureau de change money launderer Kieran Byrne.

Former ministers Nora Owen and Ruairi Quinn are also interviewed about how they helped set up CAB in the aftermath of Veronica Guerin's murder in 1996.

"As the money started to emerge and to be used by the first generation of gangsters, there was great anger at how these b******s who never did a day's work in their life seemed to have rows of money and all their extended family had no difficulty getting new clothes, or doing this or doing that," remembers former Finance Minister Quinn.

The Criminal Assets Bureau is on Virgin Media One at 9pm on Wednesday.

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