25 May 2022

Man stopped at Covid checkpoint in Offaly was from Chinese Wuhan province

Man stopped at Covid checkpoint in Offaly was from Chinese Wuhan province

Tullamore District Court heard man arrived from Wuhan in December 2019

A MAN from the Wuhan province in China who came to Ireland in December 2019 has been fined €300 for an immigration offence.

Tullamore District Court was told that 52-year-old Hongwei Bao was a passenger in a car stopped at a Covid-19 garda checkpoint in Tullamore on February 28 last by Garda David Harney.

Sergeant James O'Sullivan said that when his details were being confirmed it was learned that he had come to Ireland from Britain on a tourist visa but had overstayed and then failed to register his status with the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

He was arrested and charged with failing to register under Section 9 of the 2004 Immigration Act.

Mr Bao's solicitor, Donal Farrelly, said the accused was from the Wuhan province in China and arrived in Ireland in December 2019.

While it was his intention to go back there from Ireland, his home region, where he was the owner of a company, had gone into total lockdown because the Covid-19 pandemic had just begun there and he could not do so.

When he tried to purchase flight tickets again at a later date he had difficulties doing so because the prices had gone enormously high.

Since he was stopped by the gardai in Tullamore he had engaged with the Immigration Bureau and had been told that he had until April to get a ticket home.

Asked by Judge Catherine Staines why he was in Tullamore on February 28 and not at his address at 18 Belgard Green, Tallaght, Dublin, a friend of Mr Bao, who acted as an interpreter in court, said another friend had offered him the opportunity to travel with him to Offaly to get out of the house for the day for “fresh air”.

Judge Staines said Mr Bao should have stayed at home like everybody else.

A plea to failing to register in accordance with the Immigration Act was entered. He had no previous convictions and was not prosecuted for breaching the Covid-19 travel regulations.

Mr Farrelly told the court his client had €300 with him and Judge Staines told him to pay a fine for that amount forthwith, noting that he was regularising matters with the immigration authorities.

The maximum penalty for the offence is €3,000 or 12 months in prison.

“He'll need to pay a fine today because if he's living outside the jurisdiction there's no other way of enforcing it,” she said.

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