Irish diplomats smuggled alcohol in furniture

IRISH diplomats in Saudi Arabia smuggled in alcohol concealed as furniture to dodge the Islamic state’s drink ban.

Department of Foreign Affairs papers from 1977-’78 show the embassy in Jeddah used an Italian company to secretly ship in cases of wine and whiskey.

The then ambassador Eamon O’Tuathail insisted cargo documents be marked “preserves or furniture” to throw police off the scent.

Mr O’Tuathail wrote several letters to the Irish embassy in Rome to help arrange the shipments, claiming Trieste-based firm Alberti was the only one willing to falsify documents.

“As usual, Alberti should arrange that the boxes inside the containers should be sealed and have no indication on the outside as to contents,” the ambassador wrote to official Billy Hawkes in Rome in February 1978.

“We now have the police sitting outside both the office and residence!”

“While it would be pleasant to have an odd drink oneself, I am concerned that we may have a ministerial visit either before or after the summer,” he wrote in an earlier letter in May 1977.

“For that we need liquor. Most Saudis expect to be served alcohol at diplomatic receptions.”

Added to the final sentence was a handwritten note reading: “Ministers also like to be served liquor!”

Mr O’Tuathail said authorities turn a blind eye to diplomatic imports of drink provided there is no mention of the contents on the shipping documents.

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