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Dublin: 14°C Sunday 22 May 2022

Irishman Richard O'Halloran leaves China after three-year travel ban lifted

The father-of-four had been prevented from leaving China since February 2019.

Image: O'Halloran family

Updated Jan 28th 2022, 5:19 PM

DUBLIN BUSINESSMAN RICHARD O’Halloran has begun his journey home to Ireland tonight after a deal was agreed between Chinese authorities and the Department of Foreign Affairs which lifted an almost three-year travel ban.

O’Halloran’s flight home left Shanghai Pudong Airport this evening, according to a family spokesperson. He is due to arrive in Dublin tomorrow. 

The O’Halloran family is understood to be delighted with the news and is looking forward to having him home finally. 

In a statement this afternoon, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney confirmed that the travel restrictions placed on O’Halloran in China had been lifted.

“This has been a difficult time for Mr O’Halloran and his family. The Government has been actively engaged on the matter throughout and is delighted it has reached a successful result,” the statement said. 

“The Minister wishes to acknowledge the recent cooperation of the Chinese Embassy in Ireland and of the Chinese authorities, and to thank all those who have assisted in achieving this positive outcome.”

The Chinese Embassy in Ireland said in a statement that O’Halloran is expected to “fulfil his pledges and commitments” as part of the deal brokered for his return to Ireland.

“The related court in Shanghai handles Mr Richard O’Halloran’s case according to law, and the exit ban on him has already been lifted,” a spokesperson for the Embassy said.

“We notice that Richard O’Halloran has left China. It is expected that he continues to fulfil his pledges and commitment and undertake his corresponding legal obligations.”

Welcoming O’Halloran’s return home, Taoiseach Micheál Martin tweeted: 

I acknowledge the work of the many people in Ireland and in China who have helped make this day happen.It has been a very difficult journey for him and his family. Thinking of them today.

The father-of-four has been prevented from leaving China since February 2019 when he travelled to Shanghai to resolve an ongoing commercial and legal issue involving the Chinese owner of the firm he works for – Dublin-based aircraft leasing company China International Aviation Leasing Service (CALS Ireland).

Min Jiedong, the chairman of CALS Ireland and main shareholder of CALS Financial Leasing (Shanghai), was arrested by the Shanghai Public Security Bureau (PSB). Min Jiedong had been detained as part of an investigation into his involvement in a peer-to-peer and crowd-fundraising scheme.

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He was later jailed on allegations of fund-raising fraud and illegal acceptance of public deposits.

Among the investments made by Min was one in CALS Ireland for the purchase of an aircraft that was already on lease to Finnish airline, Finnair.

O’Halloran travelled to Shanghai in February 2019 to meet with authorities who were looking for the money returned to Chinese investors in Min Jiedong’s operations. 

There were no allegations of wrongdoing against O’Halloran, but Chinese authorities refused to let the 45-year-old leave the country. O’Halloran’s time at CALS Ireland predates the time of the fundraising scheme and when the commercial agreement was concluded to acquire the aircraft.

Among the demands of the Chinese PSB (Public Security Bureau) were that CALS Ireland returns the currently-leased aircraft, and pay €36m to secure O’Halloran’s release.

With reporting from Jane Moore.

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