The wife of an Irish businessman who has been barred from leaving China 16 months ago said that she doesn’t know when he will come home again.
Senior Irish aviation leasing executive Richard O'Halloran, who lived with his wife Tara and four children in Foxrock in Dublin, was given an exit ban 16 months ago after due to his involvement in a court case.
Mr O'Halloran, a director of Dublin-registered China International Aviation Leasing Service Ltd (CALS), arrived in China last year, has become involved in a court case in relation to the chairman and owner of CALS, Chinese businessman Min Jiedong.
Mr O'Halloran's case was first reported in the Sunday Independent in February and now his wife maintains that he is “completely innocent” and has been unable to leave the country, mostly staying in his hotel in Shanghai for fear of contracting the coronavirus as he has an underlying lung condition.
“He’s 100pc innocent, he’s done nothing wrong,” said Mrs O’Halloran.
“It’s about 500 days now that he’s been gone.
“He’s been interrogated by the police, it’s been horrific.”
Mrs O’Halloran has said that the ordeal has caused the family a lot of stress and Mr O’Halloran was not able to travel home when her mother passed away in January.
“My mother died in January and Richard wasn’t here, he couldn’t say goodbye to her.
“She adored my husband. It was just so unfair that he wasn’t allowed to come and attend her funeral or be with us.
“Our children are aged six, eight, 11 and 13 and it’s very hard for the younger ones to understand why he’s not coming back or if he’s ever coming back.”
“We were strongly advised not to travel to China to see him because there’s a risk that I could get detained,” she explained.
While the previous Tánaiste Simon Coveney held a meeting with Mrs O’Halloran, she said that they have been left “completely in the dark” by the Irish government.
“We’ve been in contact with the embassies but they don’t push at a government level.
“We’re really calling out for somebody to help us.
“He’s now saying that he doesn’t know if he’ll ever see us again,” she added.
She has started an online petition, which has garnered over 5,000 signatures.
“We don’t know where to turn next, we’re at our wits end.”
The department of foreign affairs said that it is aware of the case, is providing consular assistance and “it is policy not to comment on individual cases”.
When contacted by Independent.ie, the Chinese embassy in Dublin said that Mr O’Halloran is restricted from leaving the country “but his personal freedom within China and every legal rights are fully guaranteed”.
In a statement, the embassy alleged that Mr O’Halloran is an “operator” of CIALS and alleged that he has “control over the company’s operating revenue”.
“It is hoped that Mr. O’Halloran cooperates positively with Shanghai police to bring this case to a successful conclusion at an early date.”