High court reporters
The Criminal Asset Bureau has argued before the High Court that alleged gangland figure James 'Mago' Gately and his partner Charlene Lam should not be granted free legal aid to defend proceedings where CAB claims their family home was bought with the proceeds of crime.
CAB opposes the application and claims that the couple, who it says have gone on foreign trips including cruises of the Caribbean and Southeast Asia, and spent over €440,000 on their home, can afford to pay for their own legal representation.
In its proceedings against Mr Gately, who it is alleged is heavily involved with an organised crime organisation, and Ms Lam, CAB seeks orders in respect of their home in Coolock, Co Dublin, as well as assets including a Volkswagen Golf GTI car, and a ladies Rolex watch seized by the bureau in 2019.
CAB claims the assets were acquired with the proceeds of crime and are seeking various orders under Section 3 of the 1996 Proceeds of Crime Act.
The couple deny the claims and say that the assets were acquired with legitimate funds.
In a pretrial application, before Mr Justice Alexander Owens on Wednesday the couple have asked the High Court to make orders that they be each granted free legal aid to defend the proceedings.
The couple represented by David Perry Bl claim that they cannot afford to pay lawyers from their own funds to defend what counsel said are "complex" proceedings.
The court heard that Mr Gately has not worked since 2015 due to a threat on his life, and that Ms Lam is a self-employed beautician, who pays the mortgage on the family and general living expenses out of her own modest income.
It is claimed that her business suffered during Covid-19 and for a time she was in receipt of PUP.
The court heard that the house was purchased in 2013 by Mr Gately, who is aged in his early 30s, for €125,000.
He claims he paid a deposit on the property out of his earnings, which he got from working in a hairdressing business and a shop.
The remainder of the monies used to pay for the house came from a mortgage he obtained from a bank. The car seized was paid for out of their own funds.
The court also heard that Ms Lam also had an Audi A6 car which it is claimed was part purchased with money from a family member, her own earnings, and winnings from the National Lottery.
Counsel said his clients dispute claims made in respect of the amount of the significant amount of money allegedly spent by them on their property.
The works it is claimed were carried out for a much lower price by him and relatives he claims.
It was also claimed that the Rolex watch, allegedly worth €4,400, was acquired for approximately €1500 from a friend of a family member of Ms Lams.
Some of the trips taken by the couple had taken place some years ago and were not relevant to their applications for legal aid.
It was accepted that they had gone on recent trips to Barcelona and Lisbon, the money they expended on those was small compared to costs of paying lawyers to represent them in High Court proceedings.
CAB represented by David Dodd Bl said that the couple's lifestyle was such that they should not have their legal costs paid for by the public.
Counsel submitted that to do so would undermine a scheme that was set up to ensure people at the lowest rung of society could obtain proper legal advice. Counsel also said that the couple had spent over €440,000 on renovating and upgrading their Coolock home.
Mr Dodd said that on a cruise-ship holiday a few years ago, which took them all across Singapore, Japan South Korea and China, they had a cabin with a balcony. The year before they had previously taken a cruise in the Caribbean, counsel added.
More recently, they had taken trips to Lisbon and Barcelona, counsel said. He added that the couple seemed to be able to change cars on a regular basis.
Counsel said Mr Gately's claims that he had not worked since 2015 were also questioned. He said that Mr Gately had also spent time in Northern Ireland after 2015.
His claim to the court of not having worked during that time seemed to contradict certain admissions he made in an interview with CAB officers, counsel said.
Mr Justice Owens in reserving judgement on the application said he hoped to give his decision when CAB matters next come before the court.