A SOUTH Essex Caribbean resort developer has won a court clash against a former contractor who it alleged siphoned off millions of pounds it was paid to build a five-star resort.

Harlequin Property, run by Wickford businessman Dave Ames launched the claim against Padraig O’Halloran, 43, from Cork in the Republic of Ireland, director of the ICE Group, after dismissing the firm in 2010.

Mr O'Halloran was ordered to pay back £1.3million yesterday by Mr Justice McGovern at the High Court in Dublin.

Harlequin said between 2008 and June 2010 £8.5million was diverted from £34million paid to the contractor to develop the first phase of its flagship resort Buccament Bay, in St Vincent.

The court heard during a 31-day trial there was no written contract and money was diverted into personal accounts of Mr O’Halloran to fund lavis purchases, including a wedding, private jet, a racecourse in St Lucia, a car franchise business and renovations to a rented property on the Sandy Lane estate in Barbados.

Harlequin said during construction shells of the buildings went up but they were not connected to essential infrastructure like sewage, water and power leading to the resort opening late and on a smaller scale.

Mr O’Halloran denied misappropriating any money and counter claimed he was not paid the full amount agreed.

Mr McGovern said it was “extraordinary” there was no written contract for such a large development and that turned out to be a “very poor” decision by Mr Ames, from Brock Hill, Wickford.

Harlequin has been making headlines since the Echo revealed it had taken about 6,000 deposits from investors for off plan resort accommodation at six planned resorts, but built just 300.

The UK sales section of the company, based at Honywood Road, Basildon, went into administration in April after several investors requested money back, but the remaining overseas registered companies are undergoing a restructure to continue developing resorts.

Speaking after the judgement, a Harlequin spokesman said: "We are delighted with the court’s decision and grateful that this unfortunate episode is behind the company.

"This case has taken up so much of our time over the last three years and we are now able to focus on moving the business forward.”

Mr O’Halloran said: “I will be appealing.”