Arab sent BMW in thanks to Dr John O'Connell

O’Connell got the car, and gave it right back, apparently. Keena notes an interesting relationship between Fustok and Haughey. I have highlighted another interesting bit.

A wealthy Arab sent a “top of the range” BMW to former minister Dr John O’Connell, who had sponsored successful Irish passport applications for a number of the man’s associates, it emerged at a hearing of the Moriarty Tribunal in Dublin yesterday.

Dr O’Connell told the tribunal he sent the car back to the late Mahmoud Fustok two days after receiving it in 1980. He said he had only once taken a political donation during his political career. That was £200 he took from businessman Pat Quinn, who was trying to give him £2,000.

He said Mr Fustok was a son-in-law of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the former crown prince. On Christmas Day, 1979, he had met Dr Mahmoud Barbir at a house in Dublin. Dr Barbir was studying medicine in Dublin.

A number of Lebanese Palestinians who had fled Lebanon during the civil war there were living in Dublin and being assisted by Dr Barbir, Dr O’Connell said, and he was asked to help.

In 1980, he sponsored an application for citizenship on residency grounds for four of these people. A form shown to the tribunal showed Dr O’Connell had signed the document stating he had known the men for seven years. He said this had not been the case. He subsequently sponsored a number of other, related applications. All of the people were related to or connected with Mr Fustok.

Dr O’Connell said he approached the then taoiseach, Charles Haughey, about the original four applicants being given citizenship on humanitarian grounds. A letter from Dr O’Connell to Mr Haughey, dated July 1980, stated that Dr O’Connell had “befriended” the four applicants soon after they had arrived in Dublin in the mid-1970s. “That’s not correct. It was 1979,” Dr O’Connell said.

Dr O’Connell said he may have had contact 12 to 16 times with Mr Haughey in relation to the matter.

Dr O’Connell said he first become friendly with Mr Haughey when they had discussed an article by journalist Bruce Arnold which, Dr O’Connell said, Mr Haughey had said “as much as said I had my hands in the till”.

Dr O’Connell said he knew Mr Arnold and he had arranged a lunch attended by him and Mr Haughey. He said his relationship with Mr Haughey was a “peculiar kind of relationship”, adding: “I looked upon him as a friend. He looked upon me maybe as someone who suits his purpose. I don’t know. I did persuade him, finally, that he should retire. I have to say that I succeeded in that respect.”

He said Mr Fustok had suggested to Mr Haughey that crown prince Abdullah should be invited to Ireland. However, Mr Fustok had fallen out with Mr Haughey after he failed to invite him to his talks. During the visit, the crown prince had made representations to Mr Haughey’s secretary about the naturalisation of a Mustapha El-Imad. Mr El-Imad had since died, Dr O’Connell said.

Haughey received £50,000 from Fustok, when O’Connell effectively acted as the ‘bagman’. It is noted that Fustok may have also bought a horse from Haughey, as well as buying shares in another horse because he may have felt ‘he had to’. The obvious question was asked by Counsel for the Tribunal:

Mr Healy asked if it had ever crossed Dr O’Connell’s mind that the payment to Mr Haughey could have been connected with the citizenship applications.

“You could be influenced by reading about the other funds [received by Mr Haughey] but I am not judgmental and you could give him the benefit of the doubt,” Dr O’Connell said. “It did cross my mind.”

What a logical leap it is to suggest that Haughey may have given passports in return for money.