Convicted drug trafficker John Gilligan has been arrested in Spain following a police raid which included the seizure of drugs, guns, mobile phones and documents in a joint operation involving Gardaí, Spanish law enforcement departments and the UK´s National Crime Agency.
The 68-year-old convicted criminal is one of six people arrested following a series of raids in the Alicante region which the Spanish authorities say is part of an investigation into the Irish criminal gang´s involvement in trafficking guns and drugs to the UK and Ireland from Spain.
One of the detained has been reported to be his son Darren Gilligan.
It is believed he will be transfered to the extradition hearing in Madrid before being transported to the authorities in Ireland.
This is the moment armed Spanish national police raided Gilligan´s house in Torrevieja near the city of Alicante in eastern Spain.
Gilligan is believed to be the head of a violent gang of drugs and firearms traffickers that specialised in sending contraband from Spain to the UK and Ireland.
The police raided four houses in the Torrevieja and Orihuela Costa areas and found 4 kilogrammes of marijuana and 11,000 pills, bringing the total seizure to 8kg and 26,000 pills seized in the operation.
The raids are the culmination of a joint investigation which began in 2019 into Gilligan’s drug gang´s operations in Spain who according to investigators trafficked drugs through the postal system, hiding them inside packages which were sent to Ireland and the UK.
Four drugs shipments were intercepted as well as two cars, ten mobile phones and documentation were also seized as well as four handguns, including a Colt Python revolver which they found buried in a side gravelled garden.
In a sinister twist police say it is the same make and model as the gun used to kill Irish journalist Veronica Guerin who was shot dead in her car on the Naas Road in Dublin in 1996 after she had written exposes of the Irish drug lords including Gilligan’s empire.
In a press statement the Spanish police said that they are liaising with gardaí to determine if the gun discovered in the raid is the same one used in the murder of Veronica Guerin.
The unsolved murder has been attributed to Gilligan. Although he was acquitted of the murder, the presiding judge said he had grave suspicions he was involved.
He was subsequently sentenced to 28 years in prison for drug trafficking. The sentence was subseqently reduced to 20 years and Gilligan was released after 17 years served.
Gilligan moved to Spain after he survived an assasination attempt in 2014, and the Irish Criminal Assets Bureau seized his home, Jessbrook, Co Kildare in 2016.
In 2018, Gilligan was arrested as he tried to board a flight from Belfast International Airport to Spain with more than €22,000 in a suitcase and the cash was confiscated by Northern Ireland authorities.
Neither the Irish or UK authorities have commented on the investigation apart from confirming they are working closely with the Spanish authorities on the case.