Irish Official Suspected of Passport Selling

Associated Press

An official at the Irish Embassy disobeyed orders to return to Dublin today to answer allegations that he sold passports illegally to hundreds of North African and Middle East nationals, Irish officials said.

The Irish Foreign Ministry officials said Passport Officer Kevin McDonald was believed to be still in London. A team of Irish Foreign Ministry investigators came to London today with a high-ranking police officer to look into the case.

McDonald was suspended last week and ordered to report to the Foreign Ministry in the Irish capital after a London newspaper, The People, alleged he ran a racket supplying foreigners--mostly Arab women, some of them prostitutes--with Irish passports for amounts ranging from $3,200 to $24,000.

The paper said buyers included nationals from Libya and Iran, countries accused by the West of sponsoring state terrorism.

In a statement today, the Irish Foreign Ministry said its head of personnel, Ted Barrington, who made an initial investigation last week, was returning to London.

Officials declined comment on whether British police had been asked to help find McDonald. The Irish statement said only that the Irish government was "maintaining contact with the British authorities on the matter."

An Irish passport gives the holder the right to live in Britain and travel freely within the 12-nation European Economic Community.

Published reports today said that since 1983 McDonald has been in charge of the passport section at the Republic of Ireland's Embassy, which issues 30,000 passports a year.

The Irish Foreign Ministry sources said McDonald married an Iranian last year.

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