Cole Report

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Cole Report
Dermot Cole

Report into the Granting of Irish passports to Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz and his associates prepared by Mr Dermot Cole, assistant secretary in the Irish Department of Justice. This report is in the public domain and was reprinted in the The Irish Times on 6 October 1997.

Section A: Investments[edit]

1. In correspondence with the then Minister in August 1990 solicitors acting for the Mahfooz (sic) family enquired about citizenship in exchange for investment. They spoke of up to $ 100 million being available for investment. They gave an outline of the background of the Sheik and supplied a banker's reference from Citi Corp/Citibank signed by the vice president of the bank describing Sheik Mahfooz as an enormously wealthy individual, the most important and respected client with Citicorp Private Bank in the UK and Channel Islands and one of the most valued clients of the bank globally.

2. Following phone calls to the Minister's Office from the solicitors I met with Mr Mitchell (Sheik Mahfooz's solicitor) and the Sheik's personal assistant (whose name I do not recall) on 3 September, 1990. I recall that they told me of the interest of the Sheik in obtaining Irish citizenship in return for investment and that the Sheik had that day purchased (pounds) 10 million worth of Irish gilts as an earnest of his good intentions.

3. For my part I explained the Government position regarding investment and handed over the "statement of intent". I told them that the Government was interested in investment of the type outlined in the statement and that while the investment in gilts would be appreciated they should understand that such investment could be resold the following day with no lasting benefit to the Irish economy. I advised them to make contact with Mr Colm O'Regan of the IDA (then seconded to the Department of the Taoiseach) as the person who could best advise on the various investment options open to the Sheik and who could put them in touch with relevant IDA personnel.

4. Mr Sean Donnelly, now Executive Director of Forbairt, then Executive Director of the IDA, tells me on the following day, 4 September 1990, Mr O'Regan referred the enquiry to the IDA.

5. The IDA introduced Mr Noel C Duggan of Millstreet to the potential investors in September, 1990; heads of agreement on investment in the Millstreet complex were signed in October, 1990; an investment of (pounds) 2 million was made in December 1990/January 1991. Some time after that almost a further (pounds) 1 million was invested in Drushane Castle, an associated enterprise of Mr Duggan's.

6. The IDA was not involved in the decision to grant naturalisation to the investor in December, 1990. On file is a fax copy of a letter from the principal investor to Deloitte Touche, dated 7 December, 1990, promising investment of (pounds) 20 million. Throughout 1991 the IDA presented a number of investment opportunities to the potential investors, none of which were accepted by the potential investors as being suitable.

7. Concerning the (pounds) 10 million purchase of Irish gilts mentioned to me on 3 September, 1990, I have contacted the Department of Finance and the Central Bank in an effort to establish (1) whether this purchase was in fact made and (2) if so whether the gilt holding was maintained (in light of the failure of other investment options). The Central Bank act as agents of the Minister for Finance in maintaining a register of the holders of gilts, but under the terms of the Central Bank Act are precluded from disclosing the names of the holders of gilts unless directed to do so by the Minister for Finance.

8. So far, therefore, it has been possible to account through the IDA for (pounds) 3 million of the (pounds) 20 million (stg) stated to be available for investment.

9. Filed under is a copy of the "Statement of Intent" in use in September, 1990.

Section B: Issue of Passports[edit]

1. The Minister in her request for an enquiry asked specifically whether the passports were issued prior to the certificates of naturalisation being signed.

2. As Mr Mathews (then Secretary) states, he did obtain from the Department of Foreign Affairs passports for the 11 individuals on 7 December, 1990, i.e. the day before the naturalisation certificates were signed. He apparently passed those passports, along with unsigned naturalisation certificates, to the then Minister on 7 December. The passport applications were witnessed by an English banker on 5 December 1990.

3. I have obtained from the Department of Foreign Affairs a copy of a minute written to the Ambassador in Riyadh on 9 January, 1991, confirming that the passports were prepared on 7 December, 1990.

4. As to whether the passports can be regarded as issued prior to 8 December - the passports expressed date of issue is 8 December.

5. Normally one is required to pay a fee to the Department of Foreign Affairs in advance before a passport is issued. This procedure was not followed in these cases and the fees were not in fact received until the following March.

6. The only evidence on the Department of Foreign Affairs file that these people are Irish citizens is a handwritten note on 5 of the applications that the applicants were to be naturalised.

Section C: The applications themselves[edit]

1. There are a number of errors and discrepancies in the applications made.

2. Section 17 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, sets out that applications "shall be in the prescribed form" and also makes provision for the payment of fees.

3. The Act authorises the Minister for Justice to prescribe the form to be used and, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, to prescribe the fees payable.

4. As provided by the Act Statutory Regulations prescribing the forms to be used and the fees to be paid have been made. In so far as the fees are concerned the Regulations provide that the fees shall be payable on the issue of a naturalisation certificate.

5. In his submission to the then Minister Mr R Burke, TD, dated 7 December 1990, Mr Mathews (then Secretary) stated that when he received the forms from Mr Kenny of Deloitte Touche at 3.30 p.m. on 6 December, 1990, the papers were "incomplete in certain respects (missing signatures etc.)" and that the papers were returned to Mr Kenny that evening "to get the necessary signatures, etc."

6. Mr Mathews goes on to say that the papers were returned to him on the morning of 7 December 1990, were in order and on that basis the Minister could sign naturalisation certificates. Scrutiny of the forms has revealed that, regrettably, Mr Mathews erred in stating that the forms were in order. The position is set out in the following paragraphs.

7. 5 of the 11 applicants were minors at the time of application. The form used by the applicants in the case of the minors is the form prescribed by Regulation for use by persons of full age.

8. The prescribed forms for minors are forms 6 and 7. These forms cover two situations. (a) where the application is made by naturalised parents and (b) where an application is made by a parent or guardian on behalf of a minor child who claims naturalisation by Irish associations. Neither of these forms require declarations, witnesses, etc.

9. In the case of those applicants who were of full age, as stated, Mr Mathews, in his submission to the Minister, draws attention to the fact that in a number of applications signatures were missing and that he had returned the forms to Mr Kenny of Deloitte Touche, to have the forms completed. The forms were returned, with signatures on the morning of 7 December.

10. From the markings of the 8 applications in respect of the Saudi Arabian nationals it would appear that these were the applications to which Mr Mathews was referring. In all 8 cases the marking is at the point where the declaration should have been signed. In addition the marking indicates that 7 of the applicants did not sign the formal application.

11. The wording of the required statutory declaration which is as follows "I ......... do solemnly and sincerely declare that the foregoing particulars stated in this application are true; and I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true, and by virtue of the provisions of the Statutory Declarations Act, 1938. Signed (a) ........... Declared before me (b) .............. by the said applicant who is personally known to me (or who is identified to me by .............) at ........ Signed .............. This ........ day of ..... (a) The applicant should sign here (b) This declaration should be made before a Notary Public or a Commissioner for Oaths or a Peace Commissioner".

12. The declarations are all dated 6 December 1990 (this is true of all 11 applications) although the applications where signatures appear to have been absent are dated in 7 cases 4 December, 1990, and in the case of the eighth (which appears to have been signed when first seen by Mr Mathews) dated 5 December, 1990.

13. Further enquiries should have been made to establish whether, in fact, the forms were returned to London on the night of the 6 December 1990 and the declaration made by the applicant on that night in order to establish whether the declaration was made in person before the person who signed as a Notary, Commissioner for Oaths or Peace Commissioner. Enquiries should also have been made to establish whether this person (whose signature is illegible and gives the place of signature as London, England) is in fact a Notary, Commissioner for Oaths or Peace Commissioner. While these comments may appear minor, the law, as contained in the relevant Acts, is specific in requiring these formalities to be complied with.

14. None of the applicants claimed any association with Ireland.

15. All claimed that they intended to have their usual or principal place of residence in Ireland after naturalisation.

16. None claimed to have ever been in Ireland before.

17. The property at Clonee (Glenmore House) given as the address by the applicants is owned by a company called "Cornwell Holdings Ltd". There is no company of that name registered at the Companies Office, Dublin. The transfer of the property to the company was registered on 26 January, 1991.

18. I have not seen the actual papers in the Land Registry which would disclose the price paid for the property and the address, registered directors of Cornwell Holdings Ltd as, under Lang Registry rules, such inspection of documents can only take place after "proof of special circumstances" to the Registrar.

19. The witnesses in all 11 cases are identical, 2 living in Dublin, 1 in London. The references are completed in the same handwriting as the Irish address of the applicants and in the cases where the sex of the applicant is not clear the referees have failed to strike out "his or her" as appropriate. The referees merely signed the references.

20. In so far as fees are concerned, Mr Mathews stated to the Minister that the question of payment of the fees could be left over. This statement was incorrect given the wording of the Statutory Regulations (see para 4). In the event the fees were not received until 14 March 1991.

21. In his submission Mr Mathews pointed out that "normally, following approval of an application an applicant is required to make a declaration of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State in open court, but this is a condition which you have power to waive and I understand that you will be prepared to waive it in these cases". Up to these applications, so far as I can establish, only those on whom honorary citizenship was conferred were not required to make this declaration

22. Copies of the applications made and of the forms which should have been used are filed under.

Section D: The Certificates themselves[edit]

1. In his submission, Mr Mathews said that ordinarily the certificates were signed by an officer of the Department, (authorised to authenticate the Official Seal of the Minister) but that in these particular cases he was leaving the certificates for personal signature by the Minister.

2. It is the invariable practice, except in the case of honorary citizenship or a "celebrity" figure, for certificates to be signed at official level.

3. Mr Mathews stated that it was the practice for original certificates to be retained in the Department in cases of naturalisation, a copy being given to the applicant.

4. This was incorrect as in fact the reverse is the case.

5. When the certificates were prepared in the Department a distinction was drawn between those applicants of full age and those who were minors. The correct forms were used. This does give rise to the peculiar position in the case of the minor applicants (5) that the wrong statutory forms were used to make application but the correct form of naturalisation certificates were used.

6. Normally when the Minister's Seal is used a simultaneous entry is made in the seal book kept in the Secretary's office for that purpose recording the date on which the seal is used, each use of the seal being given a separate number. The use of the seal in these cases was not entered until 26 February, 1991.


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