High court reporters
A High Court judge has ruled that alleged gangland figure James ‘Mago’ Gately and his partner Charlene Lam are entitled to free legal aid to defend claims by the Criminal Asset Bureau that their family home was bought with the proceeds of crime.
CAB had opposed their application and had claimed that the couple, who it says have gone on foreign trips including cruises of the Caribbean and Southeast Asia, and spend over €440,000 on their home, could afford to pay for their own legal representation.
On Wednesday Mr Justice Alexander Owens said, after considering the evidence put before the court, that he was prepared to make an order granting the couple legal aid to defend the claim.
The matter he said was “serious” for the couple, as it “involves an application to seize their family home.”
This was a factor that the court very much had to take account of regarding the legal aid application.
The judge noted evidence put before the court by CAB about past “extravagant holidays” taken by the couple.
He also said CAB had tendered evidence about the purchase of a car, which he noted the respondents say was part funded from a National Lottery win.
However, the judge said that the evidence was that such that their spending on such items had “dried up” of late, and the court was more concerned about their circumstances in the “near past”.
The judge said that there was no evidence to show that Mr Gately had earned any income from working as a trainer. The couple, the judge concluded, do not have the means to pay for legal representation in the proceedings.
The judge said that he was prepared to make orders that the couple be provided with legal aid to cover the cost of one solicitor and one barrister only, but he was not prepared to extend that order to allow them to be represented by a senior counsel.
The judge also put a timetable in place for the exchange of documents between the parties so that the case can go to hearing as soon as possible.
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.
CAB claims the couple had spent over €440,000 on renovating and upgrading their Coolock home.
It also claims that they had taken cruise-ship holidays in the Caribbean and Southeast Asia and more recently they had taken trips to Lisbon and Barcelona.
CAB also claims that the couple seemed to be able to change cars on a regular basis.
The couple deny the claims and say that the assets were acquired with legitimate funds.
Mr Gately it is contended has not worked since 2015 due to a threat on his life, and Ms Lam is a self-employed beautician, who pays the mortgage on the family and general living expenses out of her own modest income.
Her business suffered during the Covid19 and for a time she was in receipt of PUP.
Mr Gately, who is aged in his early 30s, claims their home was bought for €125,000 in 2013.
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.
The case will be next mentioned before the court next month.