JOHN Gilligan remains a free man after his Spanish drugs and guns trial was stayed after his son Darren failed to appear.
Instead of going to jail, the convicted drug dealer was told he was hours away from getting his passport back so he could drive his girlfriend Sharon Oliver to the UK for an operation.
The unexpected turn in the case came after lawyers for the nine defendants failed to reach an agreement with prosecutors.
This came at a behind-closed-doors hearing before a judge before a brief public session.
Gilligan, wearing a light gray suit over a white shirt, was chatting animatedly with some of his defendants outside the courtroom in the Costa Blanca town of Torrevieja.
Sources confirmed today that a plea deal had been discussed following the stay of the trial.
But they said the prosecutor’s offer of a three-year sentence for illegally exporting strong sleeping drugs from Spain to Ireland in exchange for confessions was the biggest sticking point.
Darren Gilligan’s absence was confirmed when a clerk called the defendants to the court’s public hearing just before noon.
Friends said he was back in Ireland and was short on money. Court officials will now attempt to locate him before declaring that he is in contempt of court if they do not locate him so that he can be tried in his absence.
The threat of more than eight years in prison still looms over his father after failing to reach an agreement that would have reduced the trial to a mere formality.
Prosecutors are seeking an 18-month prison sentence for unlawful gun possession for Gilligan after a hidden gun was found in the garden of his expat home in Torrevieja.
There was initial speculation as to whether the gun was linked to the killing of Ms Guerin.
Detectives said when he was arrested in October 2020 the gun was a rare Colt Python .357 Magnum and described it as “the same make and model” as that used to kill the reporter in an ambush on the outskirts of Dublin in June 1996 became.
Subsequent ballistics reports found no conclusive evidence linking the gun to the murder.
Spanish prosecutors labeled him a Colt Defender in a written six-page indictment and called him an air pistol.
Sources said that although it was an air pistol, it was classified as a handgun because it could be used to fire bullets.
Prosecutors also want Gilligan to be jailed for an additional two years if convicted of smuggling cannabis into Ireland, four years for illegally exporting the prescription sleeping pills and 10 months for membership of a criminal gang.
The drugs were allegedly smuggled into Ireland via courier deliveries in boxes containing flip-flops and children’s towels.
It emerged today that the 70-year-old Dubliner had hinted at a previous closed-door hearing that he was willing to plead guilty to certain charges in exchange for a reduced sentence.
A source said: “The problem is… that will not automatically result in an acquittal for the other defendants if prosecutors are satisfied they have a good case against them.
“The other problem is the concessions prosecutors are offering in exchange for official guilty pleas.
“Defendants are always more likely to accept a deal that offers a significant reduction in prison time and that’s not happening here at the moment.”
Judge Jorge Martinez is now considering whether to return the passports of Gilligan and his girlfriend, who appeared separately in court wearing a black pantsuit and a black Chanel handbag, so they can travel to England.
The couple’s lawyer filed the travel request after telling the court in open court that Sharon Oliver urgently needed to return to her home country for surgery and her partner needed to take her by car because she did not have a driver’s license.
Prosecutors did not oppose the request, so it could only be a matter of hours before Gilligan and his girlfriend leave Spain temporarily.
The judge closed the brief public session by saying, “We will stay the trial until April next year.”
The five lawyers for the nine defendants are now expected to continue trying to negotiate a settlement with prosecutor Barbara Valero ahead of the rescheduled three-day trial.
They are considered open to a deal when the offer on the table is little or no jail time.
Prison sentences of two years or less are usually suspended for first-time offenders in Spain.
https://www.independent.ie/news/john-gilligan-trial-convicted-drug-dealer-remains-a-free-man-and-is-on-brink-of-getting-his-passport-back-to-drive-to-uk-from-spain-42039038.html John Gilligan trial: Convicted drug dealer remains a free man and is on the verge of getting his passport back to drive from Spain to the UK