An Irish businessman who was stuck in China for nearly three years can now return home, after travel restrictions were lifted, the government in Dublin said on Friday.
Richard O’Halloran had been unable to leave Shanghai because of a legal dispute.
Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister, said O’Halloran would be heading back to Ireland “shortly” after the authorities removed the so-called “exit ban”.
“This has been a difficult time for Mr O’Halloran and his family,” he added in a statement. “The government has been actively engaged on the matter throughout and is delighted it has reached a successful result.”
Coveney said the lifting of the ban came after cooperation between China’s embassy officials in Dublin and Beijing authorities.
Irish media said he flew to Shanghai in February 2019 to try to resolve a commercial and legal dispute involving the Chinese-owned aircraft leasing firm he worked for in Dublin, China International Aviation Leasing Service.
The Irish Times reported that despite giving evidence against the firm’s one-time chairman Min Jiedong , who was convicted over the deal, O’Halloran was prevented from leaving.
At one stage, China demanded €30 million ($33 million) from O’Halloran, the paper said, while hundreds of thousands of euros were paid to Chinese authorities derived from income associated with the lease of the plane.
O’Halloran had to make two court appearances in Shanghai earlier this week to finalise and sign off on financial arrangements and future commitments to pave the way for the lifting of the exit ban.
Exit bans are often used in China against activists who challenge the authorities but have also affected business figures.
The Chinese embassy in Dublin tweeted on Friday that “it is expected that he continues to fulfil his pledges and commitment and undertake his corresponding legal obligations”.
Ireland’s prime minister, Micheál Martin, said it had been a “difficult journey” for O’Halloran and his family.
- AFP, with additional editing by George Russell