Found this to be quite funny as it was this gangster that baptised me Dhia na gloire.
THIS IS the rural priest promising his flock cures - if they buy â‚¬50 bottles of a miracle juice from him.
Fr Hugh Sweeney has been flogging his parishioners in a remote corner of Donegal bottles of an elixir known as noni juice which he claims could help prevent everything from heart attacks to cancer.
The controversial priest, who once made a â‚¬125,000 settlement with the taxman, told our undercover reporter he could make a four-figure sum every month if he joined the noni juice sales team - but denied he was part of a pyramid scheme.
The priest has now been compared to a snakeoil salesman by some irate parishioners who say he has even sold bottles of noni juice to cancer patients in his parish of Glen Swilly, seven miles from Letterkenny. One local who spoke confidentially to the Sunday World said parishioners were sick of the Co. Donegal priest using his position of authority to sell the juice to make money.
"He uses his position as a priest to visit people with cancer and then he tries to get them to buy this stuff. It's disgraceful," said one of his parishioners. "He puts a lot of pressure on people to buy and is not too happy when they don't. A lot of parishioners are very angry but because he is a priest they are reluctant to speak out.
"My own family is involved. Two of my relatives have cancer and he did this to them.They are very angry. "I asked one medical person about it and he said it was just concentrated fruit juice and it might not actually be good for someone who was ill.
"I have heard people say it is a disgrace but they don't challenge him because he is a priest. Nobody wants to get involved.
NONI: A bottle of the â€˜miracleâ€™ fruit juice
"He actually gets annoyed if people don't buy it although lots of people tell him they can't afford it." This week the Sunday World was at a meeting where Fr Sweeney encouraged people to sign up to the scheme promising "four figure" sums to be made every month.
The Donegal priest was clearly in the business of recruiting new sales people for a juice marketing company. "The beautiful thing about this is that you don't have to be an ill or a sick person to use this," claimed Fr Sweeney.
The â‚¬50 bottles of foul-tasting fruit juice are being hailed as a miracle 'cure-all' that can change the lives of people with chronic illness. In clear breach of food safety regulations a brochure was handed out in which it was claimed that noni juice eased the symptoms of several medical conditions.
The scheme was described by one of the promoters, Mildred McMinn, as "network marketing" - an ethically dubious business practice. Later in private, Fr Sweeney denied it was a pyramid scheme and said that he understood once a product changed hands it couldn't be classed as such.
The priest, who is originally from Gweedore, is parish priest of Glen Swilly, a rural township seven miles west of Letterkenny. "He tells people not to worry about doctors but buy this stuff. It's like a pyramid scheme," one local man told the Sunday World. Under Irish law a business scheme becomes a pyramid scheme when the scheme is more about attracting new recruits than selling a product.
It is illegal to organise and participate in a pyramid selling scheme in Ireland with possible fines up to â‚¬150,000 and five years in jail.
Fr Sweeneyâ€™s pyramid
Fr Sweeneyâ€™s pyramid
DENIAL: Fr Sweeneyâ€™s pyramid
But the priest left no doubt that he wanted to sign up people as "independent product consultants" rather than just flog a bottle of exotic fruit juice. At Thursday's meeting in a Letterkenny hotel he even drew a pyramid-shaped diagram to explain how the system works.
"The question is do I want my money back? Of course I do. So all I need do is to get three more people to sign on under me and tell them to just get three more people so they can get their money back as well," he explained.
"Certainly within two months if your noni juice isn't coming to you for say 70 per cent reduction it should be there for nothing and after the third month you have it for nothing anyway," he said.
"Once you reach that threshold anything else you get then is a week's wages. That week's wages will get up there. It will actually double in a short time, it will treble," he claimed. "There are people in the country who say they are definitely making a four figure sum a month out of noni."
He told how he and another recruit met a German distributor who was broke and down on his luck before he discovered noni juice. "That man stood in front of us in a pair of jeans as casual as you like and full of confidence as well, his cheque the previous month was â‚¬1 million," he said, pausing for effect.
"All he did was tell his friends and his friends tell everyone else. So there's money here lads, there's a living to be made," asserted the priest. In a slide show delivered at the meeting, one slide showed a person's expected earnings with ranks given titles such as diamond pearl, triple diamond pearl and so on.
It suggested the top ranked person was making in excess of â‚¬1 million a month.
Fr Hugh Sweeneyâ€™s house
Fr Hugh Sweeneyâ€™s house
SALES HQ: Fr Hugh Sweeneyâ€™s house in the remote parish of Glen Swilly.
Would-be recruits at a Donegal hotel this week were told of a variety of success stories and testimonials about the effects of noni juice. Mildred even claimed that one farmer used noni juice to cure a sheep.
Fr Sweeney also made medical claims about the juice saying that noni is "on the way to be proven to stop you getting that heart attack, getting that tumour whatever illness is out there".
"You don't need to be half-crocked to start it," he added. He said that he already had 40 people signed up in his organisation which means he makes â‚¬204.96 a month as well as getting his four bottles of noni juice for free. According to the "business plan" should he reach the next level, his income would jump to â‚¬749 a month and then to â‚¬2,381 at the next rank.
The flaw in the scheme, however, means that if everyone in Fr Sweeney's organisation of 363 people were to make the same "four figure sum" almost the entire 140,000 population of Donegal would have to be signed up to the scheme.
The new recruits are encouraged to sign an "Independent Product Consultant Agreement" with Tahitian Noni International. However, the small print at the bottom of the contract read: "It is illegal for a promoter or a participant in a trading scheme to persuade anyone
to make a payment by promising benefits from getting others to join a scheme."
It warns: "Do not be misled by claims that high earnings are easily achieved." Fr Sweeney previously made the newspapers when he was listed as a tax defaulter in 2004 over a bogus nonresident account. He paid over a â‚¬125,000 settlement to the Revenue Commissioners.
Then in 2007 he caused a stir when he called on mass-goers to pray for the soul of Saddam Hussein following his execution in Iraq.The priest described Saddam as "a bit of a character" and added his name to the list of local people who had recently passed away.