Harlequin’s H Hotel Barbados – Five months of photos: Can you see any progress at all?

(click all photos for large versions)

Where are the workers? Where are the materials? Where are the walls?

Five months of photos at the H Hotel construction site show little, if any, real progress happening at this David Ames Harlequin project. Barbados Free Press first published photos of the worksite dating from February 16, 2012 to March 22, 2012 (BFP’s March 23, 2012 story here). Now, six months later we publish photos taken on July 18, 2012 and we cannot see any progress at all. Some piles of sand, some concrete tiles in the corner, a few internal supports removed – but this isn’t progress. It certainly isn’t what we would expect to see on an active construction project after nearly six months.

Does this look like six months of work on a healthy, vibrant project to you?

These photos will probably cause some Harlequin investors and prospective investors to do a doubletake, and perhaps they should. What work is being done? How much money has been spent on labour and materials in the six past months? Why isn’t this construction site a beehive of activity like every other healthy site you’ve ever seen? There is, however, precedent for this snail like pace by Harlequin…

Unless there’s something we’ve missed, folks who purchased units at Harlequin’s Merricks project six years ago have yet to see one customer unit delivered. Where is all that customer money now?

Perhaps we ordinary people don’t understand how the whole Harlequin project portfolio can support itself without using customer funds from one project to keep other projects going, and by using the funds from new investors to cover existing daily expenses. We don’t understand where the money will come from to build all those sold units at Merricks, because after six years of paying some of the highest sales commissions ever to ‘investment counselors’ who push Harlequin ‘investments’, we think Harlequin is relying on new investors to support the whole scheme.

And who will fund the units of those new investors when six years from now Harlequin decides to build three models? There will have to be yet more new investors, I guess. We don’t see how Dave Ames and his companies can keep all the balls in the air, but as we said, we’re certainly not financial genius developers at BFP. Yup, we’re a little slow here, and that’s probably why the whole thing has us thinking of a historical figure by the name of Charles Ponzi. We’re probably wrong to be thinking about Mr. Ponzi in relation to Harlequin, but for some reason we are.

Charles Ponzi (above) is the chap who gave his name to ‘Ponzi Scheme’, which is defined as…

“A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to its investors from their own money or the money paid by subsequent investors, rather than from profit earned by the individual or organization running the operation. The Ponzi scheme usually entices new investors by offering higher returns than other investments, in the form of short-term returns that are either abnormally high or unusually consistent. Perpetuation of the high returns requires an ever-increasing flow of money from new investors to keep the scheme going.”

The blindness called ‘Too big to fail’

There’s also another concept we’ve read about called ‘Too big to fail’ where a business failure would have widespread consequences far beyond the project failure itself. In countries like Barbados and other small island nations we’ve seen many instances where sharp-talking operators throw around some seed money and the locals and their governments just lie down like slaves. (Ever heard of Sir Allen Stanford?)  Individuals, communities and governments become so deeply invested in an unsustainable venture that they develop a kind of tunnel vision that prevents them from cutting their losses and getting the hell out. In the recent past there was enough Bajan credit and government money floating around that politicians could bail out their mistakes to at least delay a collapse until after the next election or their retirement.

But as we’ve seen, the old rules are taking a beating everywhere.

Is Harlequin too big to fail? Is Harlequin too big to allow it to fail in Barbados? Are Bajan politicians and our country’s prestige so heavily invested that folks have tunnel vision?

We don’t know the answers to those questions – but we do know that these photos of the H Hotel construction site give us the chills for Barbados and the folks who have their money tied up in Harlequin…

Photos from February and March, 2012…

(Click each photo to see large version)

February 16, 2012

March 22, 2012 , , ,

Photos taken July 18, 2012…

, , , , , , ,

Our thanks to a friend for the photos


Filed under Barbados, Business & Banking, Consumer Issues, Economy, Offshore Investments

79 responses to “Harlequin’s H Hotel Barbados – Five months of photos: Can you see any progress at all?

  1. 139

    Have driven past Allamanda a few times during peak working hours and not seen a single thing happening. Harlequin as a company is not big, but the scam is. What does it own, other than collossal liabilities to the many thousands of owners with no home to show for their investment? It is a small company with horrific liabilities, and noone in the Caribbean will provide finance, with some major banks saying they want nothing whatsoever to do with them. And yet they are now buying another hotel in Barbados to sell more units in before meeting all these many thousands of existing commitments.

    Scam anyone?

    Marquis St Lucia has zero activity, Merricks has not seen a single home completed since being sold out several years ago, Dom Rep has zero activity, Brazil zero activity, Bucc Bay loses fortunes, as does Blu in St Lucia. Yet people are sold on investing in properties that will deliver big returns and guarantee them etc – what money is used to guarantee the returns? Can only be new investor money as the operations actually lose money – that is definition of Ponzi scheme.

  2. answers harlequin?

    STOP PRESS! SIPP Approved 5 Star Hotel Investment
    26 JULY 2012 3 VIEWS

    Caribbean Luxury Hotel Suites and Cabanas
    > Invest from only £30,000

    > Properties are suitable for self investment personal pension
    > FREE pension review available
    > Properties up to 40% below market value
    > 100% finance is available, all you pay is a £1000 reservation fee
    > A 70% non status developer loan will be available on completion
    > Two year 10% rental guarantee followed by 50% net room rate share
    > 50% net room rate share expected to be in the refion of 18-20% per year
    > First resort open in St Vincent and the Grenadines
    > Developer’s Inter island airline has now launched
    > Full furnished and managed, freehold properties
    > 30 Days free use per year (Excludes SIPP investors)
    > UK Developer, UK Office – open door policy

    For more information on this Investment; http://www.property index.com.

    I for one never realized that Harlequin have a open door policy so if we as investors wanted to we could all go to their offices together and make them answer some questions we could of course make this a event on facebook and arrange a coach to pick everyone up on route to Harlequin.

    Also noticed how they are still selling 40% below market value is this St Vincent’s if it is this cannot be a good thing for present investors can it? I thought that they had sold out??

    At least Mr Ames has finally sorted out the money problems” 70% non status developer loan will be available on completion” That’s brilliant well done Dave I didn’t think it was going to be possible!!!

    Maybe Harlequin will want all this nonsense and speculation to stop and arrange a open day where there would be a question and answer session at the end and not there usual slick American style operation but I doubt it.

  3. what will they think of next.

    BFP you have read my mind. Only yesterday I drove past this property and said to myself that even though they are workers on site nothing major seem to be taking place.

  4. Arthur Wobig

    For a scam in progress, check-out the Divi Heritage in Hole Town. A time share with many investors and a promise of no money put into the property in more than 5 yrs. We will never be back, after 20 yrs of enjoying your island….Arthur Wobig. Little River, SC, USA.

  5. George

    It is a shame that these so called Investors can come into this Country and do what the hell they like.
    Take the stretch of road “Vauxhall in St.James to the old Cheffette Building” that has been sheeted off for years with unsitely ply wood etc and nothing happening, what do our Tourist think ?
    I passed Four Seasons to see them replacing rotten ply wood sheets a few days ago, what will happen, should we have a Hurricane, these plywood sheets would scattered all over the Island, is any one thinking of the consequences ?
    Government should pass a law that when these so called investors purchase a property, particularly for Hotels etc.they should be given a certain time to finish these projects or Auction off the Property.
    Maybe a local would be able to get them at a good price and do something with them.
    This should have been done with Paradise when Butch Stewart let it sit there doing nothing.

  6. George

    Forgot to mention the state of Sam Lords Castle, It is heart breaking to see what this Property has come to.
    Auction this Property off with the understanding that it be restored to it’s former glory.

  7. yatiniteasy

    The saga continues…Harlequin have bought The Amarylis Hotel, and are already selling it off in the UK to investors. This and Merricks are just a part of Harlequin`s scam. The bubble will burst one day, and a lot of stupid investors will lose their money. Ames and Family will retire in luxury in Brazil, Costa Rica or somewhere they can hide. See below for a laugh.



  8. PLEASE, people, slow down and take a closer look. It is easy to throw stones having just done your drive-by inspection and offering an expert opinion thereby. The progress HP is making may not be so apparent from the road, and it takes a more considered look to appreciate.

    I suggest that you make an appointment to go spend some time in the show-homes at the Merricks project. Take the time to feel the cool comfort that HP is building into their properties by adopting simple, yet highly efficient, energy-saving technology. HP has made a commitment to their customers and the community by reducing the energy appetite of every building possible, and the results are there for you to see…….today.

    No, I am not employed by HP or any subsidiary. No, I do not have a financial interest in any present or future HP project. I did, however, personally train the Bajan crew that assembled and poured these concrete buildings, and continue to serve as an advisor to HP as they increase their understanding and use of the best green building practices in the marketplace.

    You must realize what Barbados has to gain from what HP is doing:
    1) Bajan workers and sub-trade contractors are learning the skill set to create the most energy efficient and durable buildings in the entire industry.
    2) Investors are buying Bajan properties that will retain their value for centuries because of their safe,durable, and highly energy efficient design.
    3) As these buildings increase in number, they will add nearly nothing to the demand on already over-taxed electrical generating facilities on Barbados. Future generations will not have to suffer the cost of larger generating facilities just so foreigners can waste energy.
    4) The image of Barbados as a leader in sustainable building practices can and will be held up as a world model, as the adoption of this technology becomes the norm on Barbados. This is actually something that can (and should) start TODAY…..not “someday”
    5) Bajan contractors are already in the process of building their skill set and services which can be exported to other Caribbean nations, creating a new and zero-impact flow of business for the economy of Barbados.

    Before you condemn the future of Harlequin by living in the past, take a look at what is real today by looking under the surface. Get out of your car. Talk to the crews. Take a delegation of concerned citizens to an appointment with the design professionals at HP headquarters, and get a briefing on what the company is actually doing……for BARBADOS as well as themselves and clients.

    I am pleased to answer questions of a technical nature, and perhaps may be contacted via the BFP editorial staff.
    Cheers, HP, and keep up the good work.

  9. yatiniteasy

    @Douglas, if you are not a part of the Harlequin Team, then you are certainly as delusional as Mr Ames.The issue here is not the quality of the buildings that they are yet to build,or that they are using “energy saving technology”(what no air conditioning provided in the apartments or villas?)

    The issue is that this appears to a big Ponzi scheme..They have sold over 1000 units at Merricks, They have already sold all of the Harlequin Barbados Hotel rooms….The sign on the billboard now says 2013, whereas in March it read 2012.Great progress!

    They have not yet finished even a show villa at Merricks, after 6 years!.

    Same for the St Lucia Resort, same thing for two projects in Santo Domingo. Where has all the Investors` money gone? Its gone into building just 270 units at Buccament Bay(out of more than 1000 sold)..as yet, no Marina there, no Trader Vics Restaurant . And it has also gone to pay millions of pounds in sales commissions to Harlequin itself, and several agents in the UK. It has been used for high priced marketing, and for legal fees to shut down any websites (such as Harlecon.net) that sought to expose the lies being spun by Harlequin and Mr Ames.

    So don`t come with the crap about the fantastic build quality and the other benefits Barbados will derive from this project.

    Time will tell, but time is not on Harlequin`s side.Investors are getting agitated.

  10. countryview

    There is no thief in Barbados (excluding Government of course) who is the match of a foreigner. They make such fools of us AND they come back years later. are not arrested and tried for their embezzlement crimes.

  11. Lawyers and politicians to the front of the line

    “Government should pass a law that when these so called investors purchase a property, particularly for Hotels etc.they should be given a certain time to finish these projects or Auction off the Property.

    Maybe a local would be able to get them at a good price and do something with them.”

    If there is going to be any special deal or auction on these lands, one can safely assume the lawyers and politicians will get there first, if they haven’t already ripped off an investor or small land owner.

  12. RLL

    This is a huge embarrassment to Barbados. When the ponzi house of cards collapses (they always do) what politician will take the blame for another half-built monstrosity rotting away in public?

  13. 82

    This scam could have been exposed/stopped sooner if, like another island did, the other islands told Ames that he can sell off plan if he escrows the investor funds and keeps that escrow account on the island where the sales were made. This way, you would know the investor money was safe, as was the project, and that no scam could be perpetrated. Of course, Ames and co left that island with those demands as he would not be able to continue his crime spree.

    Douglas, completely irrelevant what the quality and green nature of the build if the build is not happening. Building 3 show homes when there is a way overdue commitment to build more than 1000 sold homes at Merricks, is not even smokes and mirrors. To any intelligent person, it is illogical to build show homes when the development is sold out – just build the thing, But, he cannot because the money went into Ames’s pockets as well as all the other agents and IFAs who hopefully will all be brought to justice. The money is not there to meet their commitments – investor money is more than likely lost, as it always is with ponzi schemes.

  14. St George's Dragon

    The Companies Registration Office in Ireland publishes a Gazette about certain company activities. The issue here:
    http://www.cro.ie titled LIQ_20JUL12.pdf
    says that Harlequin Developments Limited and Harlequin Hotels Limited have filed a Notice of Appointment of Receiver.
    Clearly these are Irish based companies and I have no idea if thery are connected to the UK based developer (or should that be non-developer).
    Could this be the start of the collapse, or is this something to do with the Court case Harlequin fought in Ireland?

  15. Look what I found

    A little research shows work is being done on the foundations which exterior photos obviously can’t show.


  16. yatiniteasy

    @Look what I found…..look what I see…the report is dated June 9th…so what has happened in the past 7 weeks?

  17. Look what I found

    How would I, you or anyone know what’s happened in the past 7 weeks without actually working there? What a weird question. We’ll find out in the next update. Being paranoid or cynical doesn’t make people wise or better informed. Judge these things on facts not speculation.

  18. St George's Dragon

    I tried to post this before – not sure if your filter got over excited.
    The Irish Companies Registration Office (www.cro.ie) has published in one of its updates that Harlequin Properties Limited and Harlequin Hotels Limited have appointed Receivers (LIQ_20JUL_E.pdf).
    These are clearly Irish based companies, so not the UK based main Harlequin ones but are presumably part of the same group.
    What is the story?

  19. St George's Dragon

    I hear that after trying to run the construction themselves using sub-contractors direct, they are now looking for a building contractor to do the whole of the work.
    At least one contractor has told me he won’t touch it with a barge-pole because of Harlequin’s reputation.

  20. yatiniteasy

    No major contractor will work for Harlequin. All the big boys have already been burned with Four Seasons.

  21. 45

    Look what I found – they are pouring foundations when they sold the properties in this hotel on the basis of being open by now. How could they have got it so incredibly wrong? With every single one of their “properties”. They are a ridiculous outfit.

  22. Boardwalk-er

    I don’t often walk the walk, but when I do..
    that bldg. just East of KFC Hastings seems to be in a state of doldrums if not decay.
    Last I observed, it looks like just ONE original bldg. remains standing
    …other than that I see a lot of skyyy
    by my just looking over their hoarding!

    In other words, nuthin ain’t happening!

    Presumably whoever invests in Harlequin has money they can afford to lose, and if the deal comes thru then they get a foot in Barbados’ door.
    And if it doesn’t come thru?
    ..oh well we can always use the loss as a tax-write-off!
    Must be nice to have excess cash like that, neh?

    But here on the ground, along the Hastings Boardwalk
    it’s purty darned obvious that the Harlequin site
    is NOT among the island’s Top Ten Busiest Work Sites…lol

  23. Instant Coupon

    @ yatiniteasy

    You got your facts wrong sunshine. If you take a look on the hoarding on the roadside you will see that Preconco, a local precast contractor has recently erected a sign. This would indicate that Preconco will soon be putting up a precast structure there albeit that it is likely they will struggle for money.

  24. Instant Coupon

    If Ames is (by chance) thinking of getting so free work for Harlequin using Bajan contractors then he is sadly mistaken and the result surely will be that the company will lose that property thanks to our very creative legal system.

  25. yatiniteasy

    Instant Coupon..I dont profess to have any facts…its just my belief that no big Bajan Contractor will work for Harlequin…if Preconco ends up doing the job, I`m sure they will get paid a big enough deposit in advance (cash) to at least cover their costs.
    I also see on their boarding..Pat Cash, and Trader Vic Restaurant …which I also think is misleading …we will see.

  26. nowayjose

    If Merricks is all sold out then why did they build the show homes? Why isn’t there a big crew starting to build units? Have they run out of money?

  27. Anna mouse

    Why doesn’t Mr Ames stop this speculation and produce the audited accounts for this year and all previous years in the Caribbean for investors to see. I would of thought that every investor was well within their rights to be able to see exactly where their money is and what it has been invested in and this will then put an end to all this speculation once and for all.

    I can’t help thinking that there might be more websites appearing soon from disgruntled investors……

  28. Anonymous

    Just for a laugh..look at Harlequin Hotels and Resorts company information from Company Check.Shows 0 cash and 0 assets. What a strange thing.

  29. James R.

    Almost laughable to read some of these comments, as investors we are kept up to date, we are all very happy with the updates … For the usual suspects that keep posting nonsense “just get a life”.

    From a Very Happy investor with Harlequin.

  30. anonymous110

    very sad. as said previously any investor who has paid a deposit say of £30k would have found that approx £10k went straight to the agent as commission ( yep 33% COMMISSION VERY NICE INDEED) approx £10k to meet salaries/dividends/loan payments etc and whatever left could have been used to build. however as not held in escrow and no limitations at all on fund usage in the contract this could be spent on anything. not really that surprising then at how little has actually been built. even if they actually had planning permission for anywhere else other than BB and had finalised surveys etc i can’t see that there could be much cash actually left to start building any of the other resorts in earnest.

  31. Associate Friend

    @ James R

    If you such a very happy investor why don’t you tell us what you have invested in, how much you invested and what you have actually got, besides promises of course.

    I want to make myself clear, I am not one of the many people around the Caribbean claiming Amaes & Harlequin to be a PONZI SCHEME.

  32. yatiniteasy

    @James R.. Congratulations on your wise investment in one of Harlequin`s Properties.You don`t say which particular property you have chosen to contribute to, but you say you and the other investors “are very happy with the updates”. How do you know this? Are you in communication with other investors?
    If I had put , say 30K pounds downpayment on Merricks 4 years ago, and they dont even have a completed show home finished as yet,I dont think I would be happy. There are approx 1000 people who did just that.
    You must be on the Harlequin team…you are not a happy investor.

  33. anonymous110

    i would ask any investor of harlequin to contact their ifa/advisor/fs company and ask just what due diligence has been done- e.g accounts/ previous history/ cash forecast/ build projection. AND then look at the company that advised them to invest in this and look at their accounts on companies house over the last few years and see how that company has benefited from selling the harlequin model ( you might need to dig a bit deeper and look at associated companies via directors as they may have set up different ltd companies to transact the overseas sales) but not too hard to do a directors search via google and you can see all the recently set up companies and then search). i could if i felt inclined mention several harlequin agents that have gone from c£1million turnover to c £12 million turnover in the space of a few years. no wonder the fsa are concerned regarding advice/recommendations into unregulated sipp transactions.

  34. 144

    James R, would be great to know what you are happy about. Most investors put their money in years ago, have got no returns whatsoever, do not have anything to show for their money as their homes have not yet begun, and the liabilities keep piling up as more homes are sold and need to be built also. Funds can be mixed, so investors do not know where their money has gone and there is no security if Harlequin pack up when they realise they are unable to meet commitments, or if the SFO or FSA get them shut down. Remember, Harlequin already have made their money in the form of commissions, so whilst they may want to build what they have sold, if they are not able to they will all have their money in their pockets already, like the agents and FSAs. Again, honestly would like to hear why all the speculation about Harlequin is laughable and why people can have confidence in them, and why investors are happy. Would be a relief to so many if everyone speculating is barking up the wrong tree and everything is going well.

  35. Anon - reasons unknown

    James R

    Please can you share with us how much you invested and in which resort (like that matters)? What returns have you seen on that investment? Are they actual cash returns or imagined returns?

    Do you base the growth of your investment on information from Harlequin? What research have you done to verify that information?

    Did you procure your investment in Harlequin through an IFA? I hope you did, or you’re stuffed if it all goes tits up. Did you procure your investment via an agent? If so, please check their Public Liability Insurance thoroughly.

    Whether you invested via an IFA or agent, please ask them to supply all information they obtained through DD to advise you about your investment. Ask them whether they obtained copies of all Harlequin company accounts, planning permission for your development, details of title deeds, conversion of your preliminary contract of sale to tile deeds, land tax/purchase tax/transfer of title tax in your country of purchase; agreement of management and service charges, maintenance, resort / unit insurance (fire, theft, flood (aka act of god/force majeur), criminal damage (unpaid contractors for example).

    Keep and check records of every query you made and answers received during your decision to and actual process of investment.

    I’d like to wish you luck, but I think that’s wasted on you. I’ll save my good luck wishes for all the SIPPS investors who’ve transferred life savings to Harlequin.

  36. Anna mouse

    Anonymous110- Couldn’t you assist investors on here by doing a template letter that any concerned investor could download and fill in the relevant information that applies to them. You seem like a decent chap who’s in the know and you would be helping so many people if you did this. Obviously we understand if you haven’t got the time to do this but it was an idea, it’s such a shame Harlecon closed down we’re all in the dark now about what’s going on because Harlequin certainly don’t give you any information. I’d love to know when the next update meeting is?

    In the next few days I for one am applying to the small claims court for a refund of my deposits. Anyone can do this you can claim up to £50,000 and you get the fees paid back too so you can’t lose really. It’s just knowing who to claim off my IFA, Harlequin or the SIPP guardian as they gave Harlequin the money? We’re just stuck between a rock and a hard place with no one to turn to for help so any help you can give me would be great.

    We did have a family friend helping us but it’s got too much for them I guess and I don’t want to be bothering them all the time so I’m going it alone at the moment 😦

  37. 172

    You should start by contacting the FSA who are likely to recommend you go after the IFA. Also, could go after harlequin – some people set up websites exposing them and got paid off. FSA is a good starting point though as they are keenly aware of scams like this now.

  38. H Hotel Questioner

    Why did all the expose websites come down? Were there court actions?

  39. 236

    @Anna mouse if your IFA is bone fide they will be fully regulated, and potentially assume liability if this product was misleadingly sold to you. They should be your first port of call.

  40. St George's Dragon

    Why did you not post my comment about the Irish companies? It is publicly available information.

  41. BFP

    Hi St. George’s Dragon!

    Thanks for letting us know. Yes, the spam filter got excited and it was way down in the spam bucket. We’ve rescued it now. Often if you don’t tell us about a missing post, we won’t find it. In the last 18 months we’ve had over 1 million spam comments – mostly by robots – so you can understand how we miss the good ones that are accidentally placed there. But if you tell us about them as you did, we search for them by your name and can rescue them.



  42. Junior

    It is amzing that our local investers never get any real praise. I am aware that we have a leakage problem and we need to have more local investment in tourism. We need to have a change in how we measure tourism success and performance.

  43. 195

    The comments above are sadly very accurate, apart from those from “Douglas” who is clearly in the pocket of Ames and as deluded (have to check how many reviews he posted on Trip Advisor). We are developing in Grenada and are fearful of Harlequin going tits up as the repercussions for our sales could be terminal for our second phase as well as for other ethical developers trying to get their resorts built out. The Caribbean will suffer for years from the fall out and believe me, Harlequin will go down. It’s a true Ponzi scheme. We just cannot understand how the SFO are idly sat by and allowing it to continue. There are clearly no funds left, they’ve all been paid in commission, drawings by the Ames family, running Basildon (71 staff!), building the units in BB and on litigation and marketing.

    INVESTORS – who pays for the 71 staff in Basildon when Harlequin make NO PROFIT? BB leaks money. All the operating costs come out of what’s left of your deposits after the agents (IFA’s) have been paid their massive cut.

    The FSA is also a toothless waste of space. The partners in Hornbuckle & Mitchell and all IFA’s involved should serve time for this scam. When it all blows up Ames will probably settle in a country with no extradition treaty with the UK and be joined by his family (if Matt isn’t already doing time for his little scam). Sad to see Stuart Law of Assetz piling investors in, he used to talk sense and be respected.

    We’re able to build out as we’ve take 30% cash deposits from HNW individuals (which were placed in a solicitors client account in the UK and could be withdrawn at no cost to investors) and we didn’t start groundworks until we had pre-sold 70% of our units. Even with that behind us and a history of successful developments in Europe we couldn’t raise one cent of development finance. I’ve sourced development finance for large resorts in Europe and the Caribbean for almost 15 years but since Deutsche Bank pulled out and the Kaupthing debacle happened THERE ARE NO BANKS OR LENDERS WILLING TO FINANCE PROJECTS IN THE CARIBBEAN. Even Rob Whitton is having to self finance his St Lucia project. .

    Mr Ames has been telling investors for the last four years that he has “several banks interested in funding the build outs”. That’s just not true, reputable lenders are all avoiding Harlequin like the plague. I secured $15m funding for a project in the Gambia, so I have some idea of what I’m talking about and development funding for any of the Harlequin resorts IS NOT GOING TO MATERIALISE. This means that every investor is going to lose their shirt. Whilst I am shooting myself in the foot as Harlequin’s demise will seriously hurt us – WAKE UP SFO and arrest Ames and co and take their passports away before they bolt as they surely will when the pack of cards comes down!

  44. 195

    P.S. *island name changed to save me any truck with Carter Ruck when I come back to the UK! And James R – happy investor or Harlequin stooge?

  45. Anon - reasons unknown

    Anonymous – do you think the SFO will be reading this? I know of 3 people (two investors and one former agent) who have allegedly reported this to the SFO, how many more do you think have done so? I understand they are inundated with thousands of complaints per day. Do you really think Harlequin will stick out?

    I’m concerned that even if only 50% of investors have finally realised they’ve been duped, many of them will be ‘going underground’ to try to negotiate a refund from Harlequin, as brining them down through the SFO will not help the investor to get their money back. Reports to the SFO should surely result in criminal prosecutions of the Ames family and IFAs who recommended this product without carrying out proper DD and whom have therefore committed professional negligence in order to obtain large commissions, but it won’t help investors.

    The FSA certainly can’t help as the Harlequin investment is unregulated. No protection at all to the investor through the FSA under UK law.

    Those investors who believe they can sue Harlequin UK are unfortunately misguided as they are in contract with one of Harlequin’s Caribbean registered companies. The contracts do not fall under UK jurisdiction so you can’t sue them in the UK. The only straightforward legal recourse is to issue a winding up order in the Caribbean. However, I believe a D&B report would show that none of those companies have any assets so legal action in the Caribbean would prove fruitless.

    The only viable option for those who invested through an IFA (this should be all SIPPs investors) is to sue the IFA for negligence. I don’t see that being a particularly difficult action, but please seek proper legal advice. No IFA could prove that they obtained copies of all Harlequin company accounts, planning permissions and details of conversion from the preliminary contract ALL investors entered into to a title of ownership for the unit(s) they purchased.

    What investors have to consider is that there is probably not much money left within Harlequin. They’ve taken care of this. So the investor’s decision has to be whether to commence a concerted campaign to expose Harlequin publicly and threaten Harlequin to only stop that campaign once they receive their money back (I know major UK hard copy press would print a story concerning investors who are prepared to be named); or to report them to the SFO in the interests of stopping the PONZI scheme for the good of society.

    What people have to realise is that investors HAVE received refunds, but as a condition of receiving refunds, they have agreed to be gagged. This is a massive PONZI scheme, and Harlequin must have spent a huge amount hiring Carter Ruck to clean the internet of bad press for them by exploiting the ridiculously onerous libel laws in the UK. I wonder if Carter Ruck would be viewed as complicit once the scheme collapses? It certainly would have failed much sooner if it wasn’t for the threats issued by Carter Ruck to two websites I know of who were allowing posts about Harlequin.

    It is a dire situation, and I really feel for those investors who realise they’ve made the worst decision of their lives, and I wish you luck with whatever they decide to do.

    Just one piece of advice though … Harlequin WILL NOT/CAN NOT allow a prosecution to go to a hearing in Court for a long as they continue to operate. Therefore, if you feel like you have enough evidence (emails, letters, brochures etc) which could indicate fraud, for instance, and you feel all is lost, then go for it. What have you got to lose?

  46. 157

    Harlequin do not have full planning permission for any of their Caribbean “resorts” and may well not get permission. Governments in the Caribbean are allegedly aware of this purported scam and it is a hot potato for them (other than SVG who for various reasons seem to support this organisation) They are under pressure from legitimate developers to take a stand against any scam (if Harlequin is one, and evidence suggests that it could well be), as well as business people who do not want the region tarnished by another big ponzi scheme (if this proves to be one..) So, an unhappy investor should indeed go after the IFA who sold them property that does not have even planning permission, let alone any other evidence (such as auditted accounts, good development history, profit making resorts etc) to show they are a company worth investing pension money in.

    Those who have got refunds set up websites and made a loud noise, so it may be worth making a noise (anna mouse). Harlequin may not have enough to pay many people back, so perhaps better to get ahead of other creditors and contact a lawyer local to the development and get a caution against whatever assets they do have (if legally Harlequin owe you money), like the hotels they recently bought with investor money, and hope to be near enough to the front of the queue of creditors to get something, or go after the greedy and potentially fraudulent IFA who sold this knowing that the client could well be throwing their money away so that he/she can make a fast buck. This is from all evidence a true ponzi scheme (the fact of selling over 6000 homes and building 150 over 6 years is a damning one) – the man behind it does not have an ounce of the charisma of a Stanford so it is amazing it has gone this far without investigation and that so many people fell for it, but enough should be enough. Carter Ruck – excellent law firm, they make good money from the investors, shame to have to make money defending people who take people’s pensions funds, but they do do it very well.

  47. Anon - reasons unknown

    Update on some of the legal actions filed against Harlequin in the SVG …


  48. Henry

    So after the fires on the Buccament Bay Hotel site which many have said was down to aggrieved workers looking to be paid what they were owed, we have one of the subcontractor bosses and an employee shot on the site entrance road close to the main security booth for the site. A robbery gone wrong or is an example of an aggrieved worker looking to get the money he’s owed? More worrying is the closeness of the shooting to the Hotel when will it spill over and guests be affected by the ever increasing violence around the site. Over recent weeks locally there has been talk of when would violence break out on the site as many people have put up with the situation for too long?

    Locally people are stating its people looking for the monies owed to them, monies which Harlequin claim have been paid to the subcontractors and not passed onto their employees. Workers are still claiming that they are still owed by Harlequin and by subcontractors who also claim Harlequin owes them.

    Recently some employees of Harlequin were asked to bring in their bank statements so that Harlequin could verify what payments they had received. Seems an amazing lack of good accounting procedures by Harlequin that they have to ask their own employees for proof of payments made to them. Harlequin for NIS and tax purposes should be aware of what an employee has been paid and surely their own bank statements would show what was paid to an individual, or is it as there UK auditors BDO stated in there last accounts that Harlequins records were dubious and could not be relied upon.

    How many more people will be hurt or injured propping up the Ames empire when will this end?

  49. 16

    Searching property for sale sites now show that apartments in the H complex in Barbados (former Allamanda site) are due for completion November 2013. A bit different to what investors were originally told.

  50. 22

    Employees at Blu St Lucia are paid from overseas accounts which is very unusual, as is that fact there are lots of eastern europeans involved… All things financial appear to be highly irregular with this group of fraudsters. Allamanda was sold on basis would be open this summer, how quickly that changed to end of next year. Sadly, people have only themselves to blame if they invest in a company that keeps no promises nor builds more than 5% of what is sold. Massively risky investment at best.

  51. Henry

    What a surprise another negative forum on trip advisor has been shut down http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g147380-i1175-k5379513-B_Buccament_Bay_b_Marketing_Running_Way_Ahead_of_Reality_V4-St_Vincent_St_Vincent_and_the_Grenadines.html
    Ames and Harlequin do not like any negativity appearing on the web keep up the good work BFP

  52. BFP

    Hello Henry,

    That seems to be the way of the world as instead of removing any specific content that they contest the accuracy of, Harlequin has the entire post removed. It makes one wonder if TripAdvisor receives any advertising revenue from Harlequin. Are there any Harlequin adverts at TripAdvisor? Or, I suppose TripAdvisor’s lawyer came down on the side of money rather than freedom of the press. Newspapers do that too quite frequently.

    Well, we’re still open for business and once again we’ll take this opportunity to invite Harlequin to dispute or discuss freely anything at Barbados Free Press. We will post their comments prominently and even feature them as we have done before when Harlequin submitted articles to us.

  53. Anna mouse

    Hmmm seems that Trip Advisor is in Harlequin’s pockets!

    Why is everyone speculating that people who have set up websites got paid off maybe they got more than their refund (compensation???) or maybe the threat of Carter Ruck scared them off?

  54. yatiniteasy

    Trip Advisor is often manipulated by owners of Restaurants, Hotels etc.You will notice , for example, glowing reports for Buccament Bay St Vincent, (some of which have been taken down) are made by people who 1. It is their First and only review. 2. Their profile shows nothing.3. They have not reported having visited any other country or place.4 The reports are quite detailed as to the property itself, names of staff, meals eaten, etc..almost as if an attempt to diffuse any negative reports published.
    In other words, it is probably created by a Harlequin operative, with a fake name.
    This is not to say that all positive reports on Buccament Bay are false,but it is a fact that several negative reports have been taken down.Why?
    Who knows.

  55. 22

    Tripadvisor was owned by Expedia group, which also owned hotels.com. Ownership may have changed, but there is still some connection. Expedia and hotels.com make money through commissions and Bucc Bay pays massive commissions and also advertises. They way overpaid for some of their property sites/hotels when in this market a true investor would not have paid those prices (cannot be specific otherwise Carter Ruck will be on the case) They throw the cash around when they want to (never to actually build anything), and perhaps Tripadvisor or certain staff benefit from that hence keep a close eye on negative forums. But also, perhaps not, just speculating.

    Either way, Tripadvisor has its challenges, and lets itself down by allowing this company to flout rules so obviously – they allowed dozens of reviews when the resort was not even open yet to the public. This is an irrefutable fact (reviews since removed after much critcism). That alone calls into question the validity of Tripadvisor – they should end their relationship with hotels that so obviously lie (factually, if a resort is not open to the public, but only open to investors and agents, then they are not impartial) and not operate double standards. That said, Tripadvisor is a very good site that has its uses, which makes it more of a shame that they let people like Ames abuse it.

    Of course, as BFP has said, would be great for Harlequin to prove everyone wrong and explain how they will build the resorts (without relying on new investment) and give the Caribbean some great new resorts and redefine luxury, give new airlines etc etc We’d all be delighted if they did that rather than say a lot, do nothing and gag anyone who points that out.

  56. Danglee Balls

    22 How can Harlequin get new investment when they have supposedly sold out on all resorts? Why do they need 70 odd people working there in sales if they have sold out surely enough they have done their job there is nothing left to sell?? If they were to leave that may bring more money into the pot to possibly finish BB.

    I have been told that this isn’t a collective investment scheme but it is a unregulated investment. I am very interested in going public with this if anyone has a contact for the news papers then please let me know.

    I have contacted everyone I can think of if anyone has got any more ideas I am more than willing to listen.

  57. P. Ness

    I wonder how negotiations are going between Carter Ruck, Harlequin, Harlecon and Harlequin property problems as this must be costing investors a fortune these negotiations going on for so long???

    As when Harlequin Warning and singing pig were closed down there was no suspension they were just completely wiped off the internet. We know that this was down to Harlequin not down to the owner of the website so why have these other two websites been suspended instead of closed down????

  58. 135

    Dangless Balls, Basildon echo are always keen to hear, but not sure it is news that this is an unregulated collective investment scheme. This has been clear since the outset, although of course Harlequin and its IFA’s who have been creaming all those commissions have presented it as a safe risk free investment. The fact is that very few, if any, of the investors will every see a penny of their investment again as the maths do not add up. The money is gone and nothing is built. It is the furthest from risk free of any investment ever seen, not since Matt Ames’s carbon credit scheme.

    Re the website, one would speculate that the sites that were shut down were paid off, and the the ones like Harlecon are fighting their corner. That did not seem like a website that could be paid off. Who knows, if Harlequin were anywhere close to legitimate they would not have so many unhappy investors setting up websites, as well as so many others who think it is a scam. But perhaps Ames is a genius and everyone else is wrong.

  59. yatiniteasy

    @P Ness..I find it strange that Downorblocked.net shows that Harlecon.net is working and online…so it seems they are blocked..server is in Singapore.

  60. BFP

    @ yatiniteasy

    Yes, Harlecon.net is working and online. They are not blocked.

    What they have done is taken down their website and put up a single page saying “Thanks for dropping by.

    This site is temporarily suspended.” so the owners of the website, not the host, are probably responsible.

  61. Mike Hunt

    I have been reading about Harlequin with interest but never really commented but I feel compelled to comment….

    I do not think that Harlequin property problems would of been paid off, I do not think she would let this lie either from what her website contained I would not want to cross her on a dark night. I know she is a real person as I googled her, Does anyone have her email address or contact details, I have some information that I would like to pass on to her I think it may help.

    I have been on her website regularly and see that the visitor counter is still going up.

    It’s a pity that there is not many people willing to stand up and be counted for what Harlequin has done to them like this woman.

    If you are reading this Harlequin property problems I hope you have your money back.


    Mike Hunt

  62. Anon - reasons unknown

    Mike Hunt (nice name by the way; your parents have done you proud).

    Have a little think. If an investor openly raises concerns about Harlequin, and publicly renounces them , giving factual details of their case, stating that they will not give up until they’ve received their refund … and then they mysteriously fall off the face of the earth without contact; what do you think may have happened?

    Clue: G … A … G … G … E … D. Also, since they’d seemed resilient about obtaining a refund; have a think about what may have made them sign that G …A…G…G…I…N…G order.

    Bit cryptic I know, but hopefully you get the gist.

  63. Henry

    Today’s Searchlight newspaper The shooting at Buccament Bay

  64. Mike Hunt

    Anon- reason unknown, Are you suggesting that HPP have been gagged? If so then why are there new pages being added to her site every day? seems to me they will be making a come back regardless……

    Henry I think you need to decide which side your on above you say how Harlequin is wonderful and now your dragging their name through the mud make your mind up pal.

  65. snappy

    Has any motive been discovered for the shooting of two workers at buccament bay?

  66. yatiniteasy

    Another new sign has gone up on the billboard..”Versatile Construction”
    their website www versatileconstructionbarbados.com does not work, but a search gives a Mr Sing at Durants Christ Church as the man in charge, Has anyone heard of this company? Perhaps they are who you might call if you cant get anyone else to go on that project. Wow , this Harlequin Hotel Project seems to be in a tailspin.

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  68. GenY

    Would Harlequin’s real estate projects be banned by the UK FSA? Do they fall under this report by anonymous?

  69. anonymous

    i am not sure whether the harlequin product is ucis or not. i contacted the fsa way back in 2008 to check whether sipp approved / suitable for pension investment advice as i has concerns then regarding the overall structure and funding arrangements (they didn’t want to discuss at all as a non-regulated product) .i contacted them again this year when they did an article on ucis and asked them to look into whether this was ucis as if it is then i believe the vast majority of investors who have been advised to transfer to sipps to invest in this would NOT have fallen into the suitable categories as defined by the fsa. (their own stats on ucis investments would seem to back this up too as most have been sold to “unsuitable” clients.

  70. 18

    Found a video about this hotel on youtube:

    The chap explains about the delays etc. – worth a watch.

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  72. Amanda

    I am an IFA and I am absolutley horrified as to what has been happening. The saying “If its too good to be true, it usually is” springs to mind!! I am currently helping someone who has invested an obsence amount of money into Harlequin (not through me may I add)!! They have refused to give her a refund , when the contract quite clearly states she is entitiled to one. This scheme is nothing less than fraud on a massive scale and if people all stood together and shouted at once then I feel that something could be done!!

  73. Anon - reasons unknown

    Amanda, the problem is fear. I believe many people realise they have been mislead about the Harlequin investment, but they also realise that thousands of people who’ve invested have been mislead. If the house of cards collapses, then everyone loses their investment.

    We have no idea how many people are seeking a refund. I would estimate most of those who invested between 2006 and 2008/9 will be seeking refunds. Many of those may have been successful, but a condition of receiving a refund from Harlequin is having to sign a confidentiality agreement. However uncomfortable it may feel to sign a gagging order, and allow the Ponzi to continue, many people have invested so much they cannot afford to be selfless. Your client will hopefully find themselves facing that dilemma.

    That is why people aren’t shouting from their rooftops about Harlequin. There are some idiot investors and spitefully, selfishly greedy Harlequin agents trying to sound positive about the investment, but most of those affected have no choice but to keep quiet. Even after they’ve escaped the nightmare.

  74. 138

    Lots of investors did not buy in the Caribbean. They signed a sales agreement in the uk with a Caribbean company. Harlequin in the uk are not party to most agreements, they take the commissions and that is really all Ames makes money from. He is a highly unsuccessful and inexperienced failed businessman – the money he has made is in commissions via this scam. There are many good lawyers in the Caribbean who would take any case on for those seeking refunds and it is an easy win, so upset investors should consider that – it is known by all (Caribbean govts, British commissioners, and the entire hospitality industry that ames is running a scam and lawyers are waiting to help) Everyone is fed up with Ames, but no one is doing anything as uk authorities say the contract is with Caribbean companies and Caribbean govts say the deals were done in the uk. Sadly neither groups seem to care about the victims so only by taking class action can this be stopped otherwise on it will go, and more naive investors will be ripped off.

  75. Lucky Escape

    Glad i read this discussion page as i was offered to invest in Harlequin today.

  76. 90

    Well Im an employee of Harlequin (Barbados)

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