Why was this Harlequin news story removed by Echo-news.co.uk ?
BFP readers supply over 30 copies of deleted Harlequin news story
As BFP reported yesterday, Echo’s news story ‘Wickford man at the centre of storm in the Caribbean property market‘ by investigative journalist Jon Austin was deleted from the internet the day after it was published in the dead-tree edition, and within hours of being posted online.
This deletion of internet content fits right in with our observation last week that articles critical of Harlequin are disappearing. In some cases entire websites have disappeared.
Barbados Free Press has received legal advice concerning our use of a news story originally published on Tuesday, July 10, 2012 by echo-news.co.uk on pages 14 and 15 of their dead tree edition, and on Wednesday, July 11, 2012 on the internet.
This is of vital interest to Bajans due to freedom of the press issues, and also of interest to those investors who have very legitimate questions about why so few units have been completed throughout the Harlequin projects list, why the construction is not following the schedules communicated earlier by Mr. David Ames and where and how investors’ money is being spent.
“There are also serious public questions about the Harlequin’s relationships with various officials and why certain governments have, among other unusual decisions, allowed Harlequin to get away with not filing financial statements as required by law for periods of up to four years.”
This is of special concern to Barbadians as our country has no Integrity Legislation, no Freedom of Information and no Conflicts of Interests rules for public officials: this despite 30 years of promises by various DLP and BLP governments.
There seems to be a concerted effort to prevent serious, in-depth public discussion about issues surrounding Harlequin, its operations, finances, and its relationships with politicians in various countries. That is bad for freedom of the press, transparency and accountability. It is also bad for democracy.
Our legal advice is that BFP is allowed to publish the Echo article in full to review and discuss the content, and the takedown. Especially in the absence of Integrity and transparency laws in Barbados, both the content of the news article and the circumstances of its removal from the internet are of vital public interest that supersedes any copyright issues.
BFP and our readers recognize that any allegations in the article are unproven, and we invite representatives from Harlequin to join in the discussion to correct or clarify any inaccuracies. If Harlequin so desires, BFP will publish any response or communications from the company with due respect and prominence as we have done before for Harlequin and others.
Why was this story removed by Echo-news.co.uk?
Are there any inaccuracies or omissions in the news story?
Readers, please feel free to use the comment section to discuss these questions and others that are of vital public interest.
Our sincere gratitude to the over 30 readers who sent us copies of the Echo-news.co.uk news article ‘Wickford man at the centre of storm in the Caribbean property market’
Here is the story. Class; discuss! …
Wickford man at the centre of storm in the Caribbean property market
Wednesday 11th July 2012
By Jon Austin
A SOUTH Essex businessman is at the centre of a political storm in the Caribbean where his firm is striving to develop a series of luxury holiday resorts.
The Harlequin group – run by David Ames from Brock Hill, Wickford – has become a political football in St Vincent, home to the company’s partially-open resort.
The Basildon-based firm is meant to be building six resorts in the Caribbean and one in Brazil.
In April, an Echo investigation revealed some of the 6,000 people who invested in the resorts wanted deposits refunded due to delays to some projects.
Now some investors have launched court claims in St Vincent in a bid to win back their cash.
At the same time staff, contractors and suppliers, working at Harlequin’s flagship Buccament Bay resort, are also taking action through the courts amid claims they haven’t been paid for several weeks.
The firm also hasn’t filed any accounts in St Vincent for the past four years, meaning investors cannot track what has happened to their cash, which has been sent overseas to build properties.
Harlequin Property in St Vincent, which owns Buccament Bay, could be struck off in the country if it fails to bring records up to date.
Mr Ames, 60, who said he was recently made a citizen of St Vincent and has the backing of the ruling Unity Labour Party, vehemently denied allegations staff were not being paid. The claims have been raised in the Vincentian parliament.
He said all resort staff were being paid on time and it was down to individual contractors to pay workers.
The business, which has a marketing office in Honeywood Road, Basildon, has so far built around 300 out of 1,120 units at Buccament Bay, with work yet to start in earnest on other resorts.
Opposition politicians from the New Democratic Party of St Vincent said at least eight claims – including some lodged by unpaid workers as well as investors – are going to court.
The party’s leader Arhnim Eustace called on the government to ensure payments were made to local contractors and employees.
He told the Echo: “I am aware a number of local contractors who say they have not been paid have filed cases in the court. This includes local contractors, workers and a supplier of vegetables.”
He said amounts claimed in cases varied, but at least one involved an alleged unpaid amount of £118,000. Continue reading