A Dublin man who has survived several attempts on his life made renovations to his home worth almost four times the original value of the property, the High Court has heard.
he Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) is taking a proceeds of crime case against James ‘Mago’ Gately who has been targeted in at least two murder plots in recent years by the Kinahan cartel.
He told gardaí he was “valeting cars to pay for bare food” when he lived in Belfast while evidence was given that he enjoyed holiday cruises with his family to south-east Asia and the Caribbean.
The former barber also said he hasn’t worked in seven years because of a “credible threat” to his life.
At the centre of the Cab case is his family home in Coolock, a Volkswagen Golf TSI, and a ladies golden Rolex watch.
Counsel for Gately and his partner, Charlene Lam, made an application for his clients to be granted free legal aid.
In an affidavit read out by counsel Gately said that he meets the criteria for legal aid as he currently has no source of income and is supported by his friends and family.
He said he formerly worked as a barber and ran a store in Dublin but currently is unemployed and doesn’t claim social welfare.
Gately said he was making mortgage payments until October 2015 but “owing to a serious and credible threat on my life” hasn’t worked since then.
His partner then took over making the payments through income from her beauty business.
The court heard the Coolock property was bought for €125,000 in 2013.
A deposit was paid from savings and the rest paid for with a 40-year mortgage.
Gately said it is “essential” he is granted legal aid to dispute the Cab case due to the complexity of the matter and because it relates to his family home.
Cab estimate the cost of the renovation works carried out on the home were around €440,840 including VAT, with a lower estimate also given of around €425,000.
Counsel for Gately said he would argue that the cost was “significantly lower” due to assistance in carrying out the work and securing materials cheaper from his partner’s father’s business.
The court was told the Rolex watch belongs to Ms Lam and that CAB estimate it is valued at around €4,400.
However, in his affidavit James Gately said it was purchased between 2011 or 2012 from a family friend for between €1,200 and €1,500.
Opposing the application David Dodd BL, for the Bureau, said legal aid was for people at the bottom rung of society when they really need it.
This system, he said, gets “undermined” when people have a certain lifestyle but don’t put their hands in their pocket and expect the public to pay for it.
He said both respondents had access to discretionary income for “eye-watering” foreign travel.
The court heard they took a cruise to south-east Asia in January 2019, booking a suite with a balcony, and travelled between Singapore, Koh Samui, Laem Chabang, south Korea, Nagasaki and on to Shanghai.
Mr Dodd said the only reason they didn’t go to the Caribbean like most people do for their first cruise is because they had already travelled there the previous year.
Evidence was heard that James Gately had been living in Belfast for the past five years and told Cab officers he “had enough to keep me ticking over” and was “valeting cars for bare food” there.
Counsel remarked this “at least shows he has a sense of humour”.
Mr Justice Alexander Owens inquired whether James Gately was still living in Belfast, noting he had been living there at the time an attempt on his life was made by Imre Arakas in 2017.
The court also heard that last year the couple paid for trips to Barcelona and Lisbon with Mr Dodd saying they weren’t at the bottom rung financially.
Mr Justice Owens said he would make a decision on the application at the next court date.
James Gately has survived a number of attempts on his life by the Kinahan cartel including being shot multiple times outside a north Dublin filling station in May 2017.
Caolan Smyth is serving a 20-year sentence for that attempted murder.
Weeks earlier gardaí also foiled a plot to murder Gately while he was living in Belfast. Estonian hitman Arakas was arrested in Dublin with instruction on the target’s appearance and where he lived.
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