Sunday 4 December 2016

Man being sued over €185m oil deal 'had lodged money in CIA accounts'

Shane Phelan and Dearbhail McDonald

Published 13/07/2011 | 05:00

AN Irishman claims he used a series of dormant bank accounts held by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to transfer funds linked to a $258m (€185m) oil deal, according to court papers filed in the US.

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The documents outline a series of bizarre events involving Dubliner Ed O'Neill, who worked as a consultant on the major oil sale agreement.

Mr O'Neill (41) and his wife Sandra are currently being sued for €115m by former associates after proceeds of the oil sale went missing. Details of the case first emerged in the High Court in Dublin earlier this week.

However, the Irish Independent has seen documents filed with the US courts which provide further information related to the oil deal.

Mr O'Neill, an oil broker from Cabra, Dublin, previously came to prominence through his role in campaigning for an inquiry into the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings. His father Edward died in the Dublin attack.

He has denied any wrongdoing and has claimed in a statement lodged in the High Court in Dublin that no contract or agreement "ever existed" between the Dublin couple and the company suing them.

Mr O'Neill, who says he never served as a director or agent of Irish oil company MDM -- one of six companies who were set to receive cash -- has stated in his affidavit that the claims are a complete fabrication and that his signature contained in a fee agreement is a forgery.

The couple claim they are "effectively innocent parties".

But papers lodged with a court in Illinois claim he was hired to ensure six companies were paid for their part in facilitating a September 2008 deal which involved the Russian corporation Gazprom and Venezuelan company NIB Petroleum supplying oil to Turkish firm United Petroleum (UP).

According to the papers, Mr O'Neill was given the $258m by UP a month after the deal was struck. His instructions were to forward the payment to a 'paymaster' at the Private Bank and Trust Company in Chicago.

The paymaster was then to distribute the cash to six companies -- five based in the US and one, called MDM Oil, based in Ireland -- who were to be paid for their part in facilitating the deal.

However, according to court filings made by the companies, Mr O'Neill claimed that in November 2008 he was having difficulties transferring the cash.

The following month he is alleged to have said those problems were resolved. But the money was never received by the paymaster.

When pursued by the companies, Mr O'Neill is said to have told them he had enlisted the help of a friend, Carlos Jesus Navarro, who was a CIA agent.

Mr O'Neill then told them of a bizarre series of cash transfers he claimed to have engaged in to get the money to the paymaster. This involved the use of dormant CIA accounts, which Mr Navarro had access to.

The funds were purportedly transferred from Luxembourg to Lichtenstein to Guernsey to the Cayman Islands and then to a branch of Commerzbank in Berlin.

Paymaster

According to the court documents, he then claimed the money was transferred from Berlin to a Bank of America branch in New York and on to the paymaster's account in Chicago.

However, the money was never received.

In January 2009, Mr O'Neill allegedly told the companies that Mr Navarro had discovered the cash had been impounded by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) at the US Department of Treasury.

He also allegedly claimed he was interviewed by two investigators from the Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security, named Thomas Hinchon and Thomas Hinfinger.

Mr O'Neill is also said to have claimed, through his lawyers, that the cash was "caught up" in a major FBI investigation targeting corrupt government employees and bank staff with ties to Colombian drug cartels.

However, according to court filings, a law firm representing the companies owed the money contacted OFAC and was told it had not blocked any funds and did not have any employees named Thomas Hinchon or Thomas Hinfinger.

By December 2009, Mr O'Neill had changed his story to say the funds had in fact been transferred to a "holding account" in Zurich.

However, the Department of Treasury was unable to find any trace of the money.

Irish Independent

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