Irish businessman Richard O'Halloran has arrived in Ireland and reunited with his family after being prevented from leaving China for almost three years.
On Friday, it was confirmed that a deal to bring Mr O'Halloran home from China had been agreed.
Mr O'Halloran is home now in Ireland after "lengthy" and "closely-guarded negotiations" between the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Chinese authorities.
In a statement upon his arrival back to Ireland, Mr O’Halloran noted “the overwhelming positive number of messages” he and his family received since it became apparent yesterday that the exit ban was to be lifted.
“This is a day of great happiness and emotion as I rejoin Tara, Ben, Amber, Isabella, and Scarlett after three years,” he said.
Mr O'Halloran said there was considerable input by a number of key individuals who were “central in helping to arrive at this positive outcome” including Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and President Michael D Higgins who wrote to his counterpart in China.
He also thanked his mother and father, as well as his wider family and friends of the family.
“Finally, and most importantly, my own family; Ben, Amber, Isabella, Scarlett and especially my wife Tara. This has been an incredible challenge for them too and they endured many dark days,” he said.
“But they were always a beacon of light and hope for me and the hundreds of Messenger calls we had helped me to remain positive. Tara was an incredible tower of strength and kept the show on the road.
This morning, in a tweet, his wife Tara thanked people for their support.
"We are so unbelievably happy to have him back," she said.
Thank you everyone for all your support. We are so unbelievably happy to have him back… pic.twitter.com/HCvehlOw7n— Tara O’Halloran (@tara_ohalloran) January 29, 2022
Mr O’Halloran had been in China since travelling to Shanghai in February 2019 to try to resolve an ongoing commercial and legal issue involving the Chinese owner of the firm he works for, aircraft leasing company China International Aviation Leasing Service (CALS Ireland).
The company’s chairman, Min Jiedong, is serving a prison sentence in China for fundraising fraud. Chinese authorities are reportedly looking for $36m from CALS or the aircraft believed to have been purchased with the funds raised.
Mr O’Halloran has been denied an exit from China until the issue has been resolved – even though he did not become a director of the company until after Mr Min’s actions. No charges have been brought against him and he has not been arrested or charged with anything.
A statement from Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney yesterday confirmed Mr O'Halloran will be allowed to leave China and return to Ireland after almost three years.
"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 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 minister wishes Mr O’Halloran a happy reunion with his family."
In a tweet, Taoiseach Micheál Martin acknowledged the work of "the many people in Ireland and in China who have helped make this day happen."
“Warmly welcome the returning home of Richard O’Halloran," he said.
“It has been a very difficult journey for him and his family. Thinking of them today.”