True-Crime Podcast Puts Spotlight on Irish Coach Accused of Abuse

DUBLIN — Years of harrowing media reports in Ireland about alleged child abuse by a prominent swimming coach failed to prompt action from Irish authorities, but now a true-crime podcast may help bring him home from exile in the United States.

George Gibney, 72, is a former head coach of Ireland’s national and Olympic swimming teams, and is the subject of a popular podcast that prompted at least 18 of his former swimmers to come forward with new claims he abused them, according to the show’s producers.

Mr. Gibney avoided trial in 1994 on 27 charges of rape and sexual abuse, against young male and female swimmers, when an Irish appeals court ruled in favor of his claim that the charges, relating to alleged incidents between 1967 and 1981, were too old and lacking in detail to allow him to defend himself properly.

Shortly afterward, he moved to the United States on an immigrant visa he obtained before his indictment. He lives in Altamonte Springs, near Orlando, Fla.

The Irish government’s failure to bring further proceedings against Mr. Gibney has been widely criticized in Ireland, where numerous accounts of his alleged rapes and serial abuses have been published, unchallenged by him or his lawyers.

But last month, the Irish police confirmed they were again investigating Mr. Gibney after two more former child swimmers came forward with fresh allegations against him.

The two women were moved to contact the police after listening to the “Where Is George Gibney?” podcast. Produced by Second Captains, an Irish sports journalism collective, in association with the BBC, the podcast focuses on former swimmers coached by Mr. Gibney, and has been listened to more than a million times.

Mark Horgan, the host and co-producer, said 18 people claiming to be Mr. Gibney’s victims had contacted his team since the podcast began airing in August.

Mr. Gibney cannot be indicted again on any of the charges that were dismissed in 1994, but Irish case law changed shortly after his original charges were dropped, making it easier to prosecute new allegations of historical child sexual offenses.

Since then, numerous Irish pedophiles have faced successful prosecution on even older charges, based mainly on victim testimony.

In the late 1990s, the Irish police investigated other child sex assault allegations against Mr. Gibney, but public prosecutors declined to press charges or seek his extradition, according to Justine McCarthy, a journalist for The Sunday Times of London and author of “Deep Deception,” a 2009 book about sexual abuse scandals in Irish swimming.

When asked for comment, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, an Irish government agency, said it “does not comment on individual cases.”

No criminal complaints or charges have been brought against Mr. Gibney in the United States. But Ms. McCarthy said she had interviewed an Irish woman — once a prospect for Ireland’s Olympic swimming team — who said she had been raped by Mr. Gibney at a training camp in Tampa Bay, Fla., in 1991, when she was 17.

John D. Fitzgerald, a senior trial lawyer with expertise on Irish criminal and extradition law, said that were there to be new criminal charges in Ireland, this could potentially result in an extradition request under Ireland’s bilateral treaty with the United States. This application could then be contested in the American courts.

After leaving Ireland in 1994, Mr. Gibney sought to resume his career, first in Scotland — where he was forced to resign from his position at an elite swimming team in Edinburgh after an uproar from parents — and then in the United States.

After his case was dropped, he was able to enter the United States on a visa he obtained in 1992, soon after he was accused of abuse by two leading figures in Irish swimming — Francis White, a coach who said he was abused by Mr. Gibney, and the former Olympic swimmer Gary O’Toole, who heard about abuses from other swimmers — but before charges were brought.

The quashing of the charges against Mr. Gibney in early 1994 meant he remained protected by rules that grant anonymity to both victims and the accused in Irish sexual offense trials.

But in December 1994, the now-defunct Sunday Tribune newspaper published a story that named Mr. Gibney and interviewed several of his alleged victims, five of whom swore affidavits.

“We never heard a word back from him or his lawyers,” said Johnny Watterson, one of the reporters on the story, who now works for The Irish Times.

Police records, and the work of the journalists and local investigators, show that Mr. Gibney had worked at a pool in Arvada, Colo. He has also been reported to have lived and worked in California and other places before settling near Orlando around 2008.

Mr. Gibney was apparently able to obtain a visa to live in the United States because of a loophole in the application process.

Documents obtained by a California-based investigative blogger, Irvin Muchnick, after he successfully sued the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services in 2016 under the Freedom of Information Act, show that when Mr. Gibney applied for his visa in 1992, he was able to produce a certificate from the Irish police stating correctly that he then had no criminal record.

He was also able to answer truthfully on the application form that he had at that point never been arrested, charged or convicted in relation to a serious offense. He was not arrested and charged until six months later.

However, the documents obtained by Mr. Muchnick also showed that a 2010 attempt by Mr. Gibney to obtain U.S. citizenship failed after he was asked to produce full records relating to any past criminal proceedings taken against him, even if they were dismissed or resulted in acquittal.

At Mr. Muchnick’s hearing in 2016, Judge Charles R. Breyer of the Northern District of California asked the attorney acting for the immigration service why Mr. Gibney had been allowed to remain in the United States.

“I have to assume that if somebody has been charged with the types of offenses that Mr. Gibney has been charged with, the United States, absent other circumstances, would not grant a visa. We’re not a refuge for pedophiles,” Judge Breyer said.

A spokesman for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services declined to comment on Mr. Gibney’s case.

Mr. Gibney has not made any comment to the media since the original charges were brought against him. The attorney who then represented him has ceased practicing, and could not be contacted on his behalf. Attempts by The New York Times to reach Mr. Gibney by telephone in Florida were unsuccessful.

Last year, the makers of the podcast approached him in person near his home, but he declined to speak.

“He didn’t look me in the eye, he just walked straight past me,” said Mr. Horgan, from the podcast.

The podcast producers said their original intention was to give a voice to the victims of Mr. Gibney’s alleged abuses, and there had been little expectation that it might lead to a criminal investigation.

“This was one of those black moments in Irish history — and there were many of them — where the Irish courts mirrored Irish society in not knowing how to deal with historic child abuse,” Mr. Horgan said. “I think this is an opportunity for Irish society to right one of those wrongs. We really do hope something comes of it.”

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