Just last June, David Ames, Chairman of Harlequin Hotels and Resorts, sent Barbados Free Press a statement alleging that Paudie O’Halloran is “spreading these lies and trying to undermine the success of Harlequin‘s resorts in the Caribbean”. This followed a November 2011 statement by Harlequin that directly accused Paudie O’Halloran of running an internet site that published information about Harlequin and Ames: obviously referring to the Harlecon.com websites.
Now Mr. Ames says that Harlequin’s old accountants are responsible.
So which is it, Mr. Ames? Was it your old accountants who are behind the now-defunct Harlecon website, or was it Mr. O’Halloran… or both? And now Harlequin’s famous “We’ll sue anybody for any reason” lawyers Carter-Ruck have started their slash and burn routine.
BFP must publish the Echo-News article here because anything about Harlequin seems to disappear faster than Owen Arthur or Freundel Stuart do when anyone says the words “Integrity Legislation”…
Southend Accountants Deny Barbados Apartments Libel
Holiday resort firm sues over spoof website fraud claims
by Jon Austin
A Southend accountancy firm is being sued for libel amid claims its senior staff were behind an anonymous spoof website which accused a luxury resort developer of fraud.
Basildon-based Harlequin Property has lodged a High Court defamation and breach of confidence claim for undisclosed damages against former auditors Wilkins Kennedy and two senior accountants.
The claim accused staff at Wilkins Kennedy, based in Southend, of being behind the Harlecon website which likened Harlequin – offering investments in Caribbean holiday resorts – to the “Ponzi scheme” frauds of Charles Ponzi, Bernard Madoff and Allen Stanford.
Harlequin condemns as false and “wildly defamatory” all of the allegations made on the website, which was taken offline after a complaint to Wilkins Kennedy by Harlequin’s solicitors, Carter Ruck, who also want an injunction against the fefendants making any further defamatory publications.
Wilkins Kennedy says it plans to defend the claims.
Harlequin has partnerships with tennis ace Pat Cash, golf legend Gary Player, footballer andy Townsend and Liverpool Football Club. It was also praised in a promotional video by TV homes expert Phil Spencer.
Papers submitted to the court by Harlequin say company boss David Ames, 60, was libellously described on the site as a “sad little conman”.
They further added Mr. Ames was likened to the Rev Jim Jones, “a cult leader responsible for mass suicide and murder”, and labelled a “shadow director” who “believes that bribery and corruption should b e legalised”.
Harlequin has attracted many investors from the UK and is run by Mr Ames and wife Carole, 61, from Brock Hill, Wickford, and son Daniel Ames, 35, from Castledon Road, Downham.
Harlequin spent months tracking down those it believes are responsible for the website. The libel claim states: “The publishers took great lengths to hide their identities, registering the domain name in Singapore and using an anonymous hosting company in the United States.
“The claimants and each of them have suffered very serious damage to their reputations and the personal claimants have suffered very severe stress and embarrassment.” The Ames family allege Martin MacDonald, a partner at Wilkins Kennedy’s Southend branch, probided documents and helped Jeremy Newman, another senior director, to run the Harlecon website.
the claim says the site contained “a myriad of wildly defamatory allegations” and abusive comments, ran to more than 1,300 pages and had up to 1,000 hits per day from October 2011 to June 27 this year, when it was removed.
Harlequin accuses the website of falesly branding its overseas property investments as “a massive criminal fraud, perhaps the largest of its kind ever in the UK” and says there were further baseless allegations about its hiding “the theft of purchaser funds”.
Harlecon is said to have included a personal “message to Dave Ames” which said: “The site is designed to take an aggressive stance against you and your business model which is designed to ensure that you and your agents are the primary beneficiaries of purchaser funds.” Harlequin also claims the two accountants supplied information to the Echo, and that Wilkins Kennedy was “vicariously liable” for their conduct.
Additional breach of confidence allegations concerna a string of e-mails said to have been published on the website about Harlequin’s business activities.
Dave Fenn, managing partner for Wilkins Kennedy, who also spoke for Mr. MacDonald, said: “We have filed an acknowledgement of service, indicating that we intend to defend the claim in its entirety.”
Mr. Newman declined to comment.
How Harlequin’s lawyers pursue firm’s online critics
Harlequin has acted against other critical websites.
- In May, a couple seeking a refund of a deposit for an unbuilt property in the Dominican Republic set up an internet site. It was later suspended “pending discussion with Harlequin”.
- In March, an investor set up a site about Harlequin under a false name. She took it down after posting that she had received a warning from libel lawyers Carter Ruck.
- In January 2011, Harlequin won about 70,000 pounds damages plus legal costs from investment forum Singing Pig and owner Philip Martin, after the publication of defamatory statements.
“We’ll finish resort”
Long awaited work on a mega-resort in Barbods will go ahead, Harlequin has promised.
About 1,000 people invested in properties at the Merricks Beach Resort, initially due to be completed in 2008.
At a press conference, company bosses vowed planning matters were being resolved and the first phase would be finished in two years.
At least 6,000 “off plan” overseas properties across Caribbean resorts and one in Brazil have been sold by Harlequin sinced 2006, with around 300 built at Buccament Bay, St. Vincent.
In April, the Echo revealed some investors wanted deposits back due to delays.
Harlequin says this was less than one percent of its investors.