Businessman staves off jail for contempt over assets declaration
A BUSINESSMAN has staved off jail for contempt of court after a judge heard he had some of the money needed to honour a €4.3m contract for the purchase of a service station.
John O'Connor, of 'Salzburg', Ardilea, Clonskeagh, Dublin, must pay €160,000 to Esso "forthwith" raised from his sale of shares in Cement Road Holdings plus another €200,000 lodged in a current account for expenditure, High Court judge Peter Kelly ordered yesterday.
Two weeks ago, Mr Justice Kelly postponed an order to jail Mr O'Connor for contempt of court for failure to provide adequate personal financial information to Esso over failure to honour the contract to buy a service station in Tallaght, Dublin. The judge again warned him he could yet be jailed over his approach to the matter.
The judge noted Mr O'Connor owns many properties here and abroad, has bank borrowings of €175m and an excess of €42m liabilities over assets.
The judge said he was not discharging the committal order because he believed, if he did, Mr O'Connor would "revert to type" and Esso would be unable to get a true picture of his asset position.
The judge said he was unable to say where the truth lay concerning Mr O'Connor's claim he cannot honour an April 2009 settlement of a legal action against him by Esso Ireland over a 2006 contract for the €5.3m purchase of the service station, of which he had paid €1m off. Mr O'Connor agreed to that settlement just days after Anglo Irish Bank approved a €44m loan to him, but no provision was made to honour the settlement, the judge said.
The judge rejected Mr O'Connor's previous claim he "totally forgot" to list many properties in a statement of assets.
However, despite Mr O'Connor's breach of the settlement agreement and his contempt of court, there was little point in jailing him at this stage because what Esso wanted was to secure compliance with that agreement, the judge said.
He also ordered Mr O'Connor to give Esso all necessary authorisations so it could establish the exact nature of arrangements under which various banks were permitted "sweep" the bank account from which Mr O'Connor conducts business so as to clear repayment obligations to them.
It was not clear if the banks have charges requiring that "sweep" or if Mr O'Connor was prioritising them over Esso, the judge said. He continued the stay for another five weeks.