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Chinese Ambassador to Ireland says no one wants to see Richard O'Halloran's case 'spiral'

Ambassador He Xiangdong wouldn’t commit to a meeting with Mrs O’Halloran when asked by TheJournal.ie.

Ec5WiYfXYAIHjMc Richard and Tara O'Halloran. Source: SaveRichardNow/Twitter

THE CHINESE AMBASSADOR to Ireland He Xiangdong has said authorities are working to find a solution “as soon as possible” in the case of Richard O’Halloran, the Dublin businessman barred from leaving China. 

He Xiangdong said O’Halloran’s case is a matter for the Chinese judiciary as it is still ongoing but that “no one would like to see this spiral”. 

Father of four Richard O’Halloran hasn’t seen his family since February 2019 when he travelled to China to resolve a dispute involving the Chinese owner of the firm he works for - Dublin-based aircraft leasing company China International Aviation Leasing Service (CALS Ireland). 

It has been reported that Min Jiedong, the Chairman and shareholder in CALS Ireland, was convicted on 4 March 2019 of fund-raising fraud and illegal acceptance of public deposits.

There are no allegations of wrongdoing against O’Halloran, but Chinese authorities have refused to let the 45-year-old leave. The exit ban that O’Halloran was subjected to was lifted by The Chinese PSB (Public Security Bureau) last month, however, when he tried to board a flight at Shanghai airport on 10 January he was turned away by authorities. 

Richard’s wife, Tara O’Halloran, told RTÉ’s Prime Time last night that she is “extremely concerned” about his wellbeing and described his detention as “illegal”. 

“My biggest fear at the moment is for how long we’re going to be waiting for him to come home, whether it’s going to be another two years, or if it’s going to be another six years,” she said.  

“I can’t explain how much we miss him. It’s awful.”

Mrs O’Halloran said she would like to meet with Ambassador He “to start a conversation as to how we can resolve this” but her requests so far have been unsuccessful. 

Ambassador He would not commit to meeting with Mrs O’Halloran when asked by TheJournal.ie, stating that he “understands the mood” of the O’Halloran family and would consider a meeting “sometime in the future” should he get some new information. 

“If I get some more information I would like to share it with Mrs O’Halloran. For the time being, I’m not in the proper position.” 

ireland-dublin-prc-founding-70th-anniversary-reception Chinese Ambassador He Xiangdong during a reception to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in Dublin, 2019. Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Speaking to Prime Time in Shanghai, Richard O’Halloran said he hopes Chinese authorities see that the commercial solution he is offering as “the most viable way forward”. 

When asked about the “viable” proposal put forward by Richard, Ambassador He said he was “not in the position to make a comment on that because I don’t know much detail about it”.

He also wouldn’t comment on whether Richard’s detention in Shanghai was necessary for an agreement to be reached.  

Recently appointed director of CALS Ireland Ulick McEvaddy said that a “substantial amount of progress” was being made on a plan to secure O’Halloran’s release. He said a deal was being brokered that could be put to the courts in China. 

He said that once the current lease on the disputed aircraft runs out there are three or four different ways to satisfy Chinese demands, and the board will deliver whatever the court in China requires. 

He told RTÉ Radio’s News at One earlier today that they are trying to help the court to understand that aircraft leasing is a complex business. 

He said Irish official need to press the Chinese on the integrity of the system here to deliver what the court requires: “I would hope the Department of Foreign Affairs are underwriting the integrity of what’s on offer”.

McEvaddy added that O’Halloran’s corporate knowledge is required in Ireland as what is being proposed depends on him continuing to work for CALS Ireland.

‘As soon as possible’

Mrs O’Halloran said Richard has cooperated with authorities for the last two years and “done everything they’ve asked of him”. 

“He has testified many times. He’s gone through numerous very scary interrogations… He’s offered to resign, he’s offered to hand over the bank accounts, and he just doesn’t know what to do from here.”

She said he has been asked to pay €36m to secure his release and that the Chinese PSB is demanding that CALS Ireland returns an aircraft that is currently leased to a European airline.

“Any money that is there to be sent back is being sent back. So he is doing everything he can, but he cannot magically get €36 million out of thin air.”

Mrs O’Halloran added that Richard wasn’t employed by the company when the events that Min Jiedong was arrested for took place: “It was 10 months before Richard was even employed by the company so he knew nothing about this.”

Chinese Ambassador He said it may be the case that Mr O’Halloran has no involvement in the crowdfunding scheme at the centre of the dispute, but “the problem is that he is the director of the company here in Ireland”.  

He said the two goals of the judiciary authorities in Shanghai are to bring the criminals responsible to justice and to get the investors money back as “there are more than 7,000 victims of the crowdfunding scheme”. 

“All of us have been engaged in this case, and we are trying to work together to find a solution, as soon as possible,” he said. 

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Richard OHallaron speaking to Prime Time in China - broadcast 18 Feb 2021 Source: RTÉ Prime Time

O’Halloran is said to be seriously immuno-compromised with Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency which raises his risk for lung disease or infection, so has not ventured outside much since the onset of the pandemic. 

After collapsing in August 2020 he spent a week in hospital, returning again for a further four days in December. 

He also suffers from asthma and says he has been severely affected by the adverse air quality in Shanghai.  

Dublin law firm William Fry, acting on behalf of CALS Ireland, said it is working closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs to conclude a deal with the Chinese courts and authorities to bring Richard home. 



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Adam Daly

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