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Investor had serious 'thirst for property' ROW: Property owner John O'Connor at the High Court

A MAN described by a judge as having an "insatiable thirst" for property has staved off jail for contempt of court after a judge heard he has some of the money needed to honour a €4.3m contract for the purchase of a service station.

John O'Connor of Ardilea, Clonskeagh, Dublin, must pay €160,000 to Esso "forthwith", raised from his sale of shares in Cement Road Holdings (CRH), 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 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 yesterday he could yet be jailed over his approach to the matter.

The judge noted he owns many properties here and abroad, has bank borrowings of some €175m and an excess of €42m liabilities over assets. Anglo Irish Bank alone, up to March last year, had given him facilities ranging from €148,000 to €5.4m to fund 20 ventures.

O'Connor had clearly made a good impression on the banks but "not on me", the judge said.

Rejecting O'Connor's claim he "totally forgot" to list many properties in a statement of assets, the judge said only a person with "medically diagnosed amnesia" would be able to forget they had these properties, given the number and value of them.

O'Connor had no amnesia, just "an insatiable thirst" to acquire properties funded by others and was in a predicament "entirely of his own making".

The judge directed O'Connor to pay to Esso "forthwith" some €160,000 raised from his sale of shares in CRH plus another €200,000 lodged in a current account for expenditure.

He also ordered O'Connor to give Esso all necessary authorisations so it could establish the exact nature of arrangements under which various banks were permitted to 'sweep' the bank account from which O'Connor conducts business.

The judge, who had placed a stay until yesterday on an order of March 8 committing O'Connor to prison for contempt, continued that stay for another five weeks to allow Esso establish the precise arrangement with the banks.

He was not discharging the committal order because he believed if he did, O'Connor would "revert to type" and Esso would be unable to get a picture of his position, the judge said.