Tag Archives: Harlequin Fraud

Harlequin’s David Ames disobeys court order, fails to give evidence in court. What now for investors?

David Ames - Harlequin's Ponzi King

David Ames – Harlequin’s Ponzi King

TLW Solicitors are here to help on a no-win no-fee basis

contributed by TLW Solicitors

Following recent reports of the Harlequin Properties’ headquarters going up for sale and the company’s chairman David Ames failing to give evidence in court, those who have lost out financially through the scheme are assured that they may still be entitled to compensation.

The Harlequin Property company was set to build 6000 luxury properties in the Caribbean, financed by deposits from UK investors. With only 300 of the properties actually built and the Harlequin Group having gone into liquidation, thousands of investors have been left in debt.

Rip Off Britain

The BBC’s consumer affairs programme Rip Off Britain investigated Harlequin Property for a second time earlier this year, after an initial broadcast in 2010. Although some early investors had been able to claim back their money, the returning of more recent deposits has been ruled out by the company since it entered liquidation.

Around 3000 UK investors are thought to have been involved in the Harlequin investments scheme. Chairman David Ames blamed the problems on the 2008 global recession and claims to have been let down by developers.

Recent evidence suggests the Harlequin case has been flawed from the start, with suggestions that it never owned much of the land it intended to build properties on, and a business model that relied wholly on continued foreign investment. (BFP Editor’s note: It’s called a ‘Ponzi Scheme’. We’ll say it, even if TLW Solicitors won’t.)

Investigations into Harlequin hotels & resorts

Harlequin Property has been subject to an ongoing investigation by the SFO (Serious Fraud Office) since 2013 and two warnings by the Financial Services Authority (FSA).  Continue reading

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David Ames running from the courts: Percival Stewart v Harlequin Properties

David Ames - Harlequin's Ponzi King

David Ames – Harlequin’s Ponzi King

Both Affidavits can’t be true!

Some interesting reading from a recent court case [March 2015] in St Vincent where Dave Ames is no stranger to litigation.

Percival Stewart v Harlequin Properties (Caribbean) Limited et al

In this case  on Page 4 the judge rules on the audacious delays by Ames in filing statements…

“Mr Commissiong deposes that Mr Ames lives in England and travels a lot globally making it difficult for him to be in Saint Vincent to testify. Implicit in Mr Commissiong’s averments is the notion that for those reasons, it was impossible or extremely difficult to contact Mr Ames, receive instructions from him, or arrange for him to sign a witness statement. I make the observation that the CPR permits a party to file and serve a witness summary if he is not able to provide a witness statement, and that a witness does not need to be in the jurisdiction to sign or attest either document.”

(download court document pdf here)

Now this is totally the opposite of what lawyers and Ames claimed last October 2014 (in the group of 33 investors failed case) when the judge was told that the company was NOT run from Essex. (See Judge rules against Harlequin investors in £1.8m court case)

“The case did not centre on whether or not the investors were owed money, a point which deputy judge Nicolas Strauss QC noted ‘does not appear to be in dispute’. Instead it focussed on whether a UK court could wind up Buccament Bay, given that the company was incorporated in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

While the investments were sold through Essex-based Harlequin Management Services (South East), which filed for administration in April 2013, Strauss ruled that Harlequin’s ventures including Buccament Bay were not run with ‘bird’s eye management from Essex’. He agreed that they were largely managed in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and therefore this was the correct jurisdiction to apply for a winding up petition.”

The fact that Mr Commissiong’s claim that Ames couldn’t possibly find the time to be in St Vincent for the Stewart case makes a complete nonsense of Ames’ submission to the UK court that the Harlequin business was entirely run from the Caribbean and therefore the UK court’s jurisdiction does not apply.

Quite obviously both Affidavits cannot be true and both evade bringing Harlequin and Ames to account.

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Harlequin selling Headquarters building for £525,000 – Where is the £400million taken from investors?

harlequin headquarters fraud

We’d say it was like selling off the family silverware, except there is no silverware left. Probably never was any.

After slickly removing £400 million from little old ladies and transit pensioners, David Ames and his gang are selling off their headquarters to pay the bills.

The Serious Fraud Office and the Essex Police have had an open file on the bunch since early 2013, but after two years Ames is still walking around with the rotting financial corpses of thousands of victims in his wake.

Two years should be long enough for the police and the SFO to do the job. What’s the delay?

From the Professional Adviser…

Troubled Harlequin puts HQ up for sale

Troubled overseas property investment scheme Harlequin has put its headquarters up for sale.

The warehouse and offices in the Honywood Business Park in Basildon have been listed for sale on property website Rightmove for £525,000. Harlequin owner David Ames would also consider leasing back the first floor offices at a rent of £25,000 per year, according to the advert.

A spokesperson for the company said: “Harlequin owns its Basildon offices and occupies the first floor of Unit 11, with all other space let to third parties.

“Harlequin is attempting to sell in order to discharge its liability and remove its responsibilities as a lessor.”

The move raises further questions over the financial situation of the company, which has received £400m from investors that they are currently unable to access.

Unregulated investment scheme Harlequin worked by taking deposits from mainly UK pension investors to build off-plan properties in the Caribbean, which could then be sold at a profit on completion or used to generate a rental income from holidaymakers. But out of a scheduled 6,000 properties, about 300 have been built.

… read the rest at the Professional Adviser

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Harlequin’s Merricks Resort “a rotting garbage dump – a liability not an asset”

Merricks Barbados Harlequin Bankruptcy 14Merricks Barbados Harlequin Bankruptcy 12

Why didn’t Barbados obtain completion guarantees backed with performance deposits and bonds?

Our political class, along with Harlequin and other developers, left Bajans holding the bag!

by Old Cutter

What a mess we have with abandoned and “on hold” construction sites and failed projects throughout this country. There is a reason for this and it is not “economic slowdowns” or “unforeseen circumstances”.

“We have these numerous failed project disasters littering our coasts because our DLP and BLP governments allowed unfettered development of our beautiful island by almost anyone that showed up.”

Politicians’ offshore accounts are fat and happy

Our elected representatives stuffed bags of cash into offshore accounts of their “consulting” companies but never acted to protect Barbados from shaky developers.

Our political class never imposed standard contract conditions like performance guarantees and deposits. The big developers hired DLP and BLP friends and family as ‘consultants’ in exchange for building permissions.

“Everybody knows how this place works, and why the political class never voted for Integrity Legislation or assets declarations since Bajan independence almost 50 years ago.”

Harlequin Resorts is just one more failed developer, but they fell in a big way and are worth looking at closely…

As the broader Harlequin Resorts debacle carries on in the courts we see Harlequin suing accountants Wilkins Kennedy and WK countering with accusations of their own, and many other court battles in various stages.

Somewhere in all of that there is a book figure for the value of Harlequin’s assets, including the abandoned Merricks Resort site in Barbados.

Whatever that book figure is for Merricks Resort, a visit to the abandoned construction site reveals a rotting garbage dump that is undoubtedly far less of an asset due to the demolition and environmental cleanup that would be necessary prior to any new activity. Barbados Free Press covered this story a year and a half ago, and the deterioration is easy to see when we compare the photos then and now. Continue reading

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Filed under Barbados, Corruption, Economy, Offshore Investments, Political Corruption, Politics & Corruption

Harlequin house of cards continues to fall

Dave Ames Harlequin Ponzi

David Ames – Harlequin CEO and Ponzi Scheme King!

Where does one start when considering the sad tale of ‘investors’ who trusted their life savings with the predators working to sell never-to-be-constructed resort units for Harlequin?

These predators (called ‘financial advisors’) received 9 percent of the sale price off the top – and that came from the client’s 30 percent deposit! The clients were not told that about a third of their deposit was going as a sales commission, because that would have been an instant indication to most folks that something was terribly wrong.

Harlequin bastards. Most of the ‘financial advisors’ were unregulated, uninsured and totally unqualified. The ‘investment vehicles’ were different corporations in different countries – obviously created for the sake of confusion, hiding money and avoiding liabilities. Often Harlequin sold units on land that it did not own.

The scams could only have been pulled off with the cooperation of elected and appointed government officials in the different countries.

Harlequin’s ‘business model’ (I use the term with a rising anger) was totally unsustainable and is proof that the whole Harlequin scheme was an intended scam from the start. Like any Ponzi scheme, Harlequin collapsed because payments to previous investors relied upon finding sufficient new suckers to swindle. Once the cracks start to appear and new investors shy away, these types of frauds unravel very quickly.

And so it was, and is, with Harlequin…

UK Financial Ombudsman Service sides with Harlequin victims

The recent Financial Times Advisor article ‘Financial Ombudsman Service – FOS decision on Harlequin must be tip of iceberg‘ tells the story of the next chapter well. One of the profiting scam artists, Harris Knights, has been ordered to compensate a ripped off couple in full…

“… the ombudsman has ordered Harris Knights to take ownership of the Harlequin investment and compensate the couple in full.”

Thailand Court sides with Harlequin Victims   
Continue reading

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Harlequin’s Matthew Ames guilty of ponzi scheme fraud. Will father David Ames be next?

Matthew David Ames FraudDave Ames Harlequin Ponzi

Throw away the key to Matt Ames’ cell…  Wait a minute, let’s use it one more time!

Kate’s brother – James Middleton, right, at the carbon trade exhibition in London October 2010

Kate’s brother – James Middleton, right, at the 2010 carbon trade exhibition. Matt Ames also oversaw Harlequin’s Buccament Bay

Ruined lives, pensions destroyed, homes lost. Suicides. Marriage breakups. Families falling apart as the work of a lifetime vanishes.

That is the legacy of Harlequin’s Matthew Ames, who was just convicted of fraud for running a ponzi scheme. Ames took £1.2million from the rich, from the poor, from widows and pipefitters. He was an equal opportunity swindler who dressed well, talked with such easy confidence that people immediately trusted him.

His product was topical, sexy in its own way: carbon credits, green investments, Forestry for Life. And didn’t he drive a Lamborghini? Wasn’t he also part of the Harlequin Resorts team? Isn’t his father successful? Just look at the people Matt Ames is seen with: Jack Charlton, and even James Middleton – brother of our future Queen.

“Out of the £1.6m that was invested across both companies, only £250,000 was ever returned to investors.

“The rest went directly into the pocket of Matthew Ames, funding his profligate spending habits.”

Ames used people with “impressive CVs” to promote Forestry for Life and give it a sense of legitimacy.

From Echo News Echo nabs £1 million fraudster

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UK’s Serious Fraud Squad investigating Harlequin: Any information welcome!

Harlequin's The Merricks in Barbados. The reality does not match the sales pitch!

Harlequin’s The Merricks in Barbados. The reality does not match the sales pitch!

by Peter Binose

Investors in Buccament Bay Resort are the closest to luck as one can get when wishing for luck for their investment from a company that promised everything and gave very little to very few.  But as luck goes it may be running out even for the Buccament investors.

Those that have invested in Harlequins different projects through like sounding Harlequin companies around the world, have only had bad luck.  They have put their money in to what they thought were rosy investments.  Many were encouraged by island politicians and governments, many of which had been warned of impending problems with Harlequin, yet went ahead and promoted them in such a way that now brings  disgrace to those small and even large nations. People have lost life savings and retirement pensions with help from these government ministers and governments. Continue reading

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Finding Dave Ames’ hidden assets: in Thailand!

Thailand Harlequin Resort Ames

Thailand asset hunt helps secure Asset Freezing Court Order against Dave Ames

Did Richard Haughton hide cash for David Ames?

Primary amongst the big questions asked by fleeced Harlequin investors is “Where did all that money go?”

Thailand-based investigative journalist Andrew Drummond believes he might have found the trail to some of the missing assets – in Thailand companies associated with Richard Haughton, a friend and business partner of David Ames.

How likely is it that when Harlequin took some £500 million in cash that the silver-tongued Ames didn’t squirrel some of that away for himself? Not likely, most folks would say – and Thailand looks good for some of it.  Continue reading

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What is happening with Harlequin – Dave Ames? Class… discuss!

Harlequin Resort

“We are urging every investor to register in the HMSSE administration.”

Gareth Fatchett, Regulatory Legal Solicitors (Forms attached at bottom)

With over 10,000 discussion comments on Barbados Free Press, Harlequin “investors” (and we use the word somewhat tongue-in-cheek) have lots to say and discuss.

Here’s the latest we have from Gareth Fatchett of Regulatory Legal Solicitors – a memo sent out on May 17, 2013.

Perhaps our readers can add what’s happened since…

From: Regulatory Legal Solicitors [mailto:mail@harlequininvestorgroup.co.uk]
Sent: 17 May 2013 17:09
To: Gareth Fatchett
Subject: 17th May 2013 – HIG UPDATE

At outset, HIG are more than prepared to continue to engage with Harlequin and will seek to understand and support a rescue plan where this is feasible notwithstanding the protective steps we are suggesting below. ie. our objective is to pursue different strategies which aim to achieve the best outcome for investors regardless of the course adopted. Simply sitting back while matters worsen is not a strategy HIG are prepared to adopt.

HIG members are all investors in Harlequin and would like nothing more than it to work. However, we have to be realistic. It is not going to work in the current format. It needs a major overhaul to give us any chance of surviving. Currently, the whole process is dictated by a handful of people at the Harlequin core. Frankly, that does not work for investors who need to understand the actual position.

The seriousness of the situation has increased with a High Court Judge making an order against Mr & Mrs Ames personally. Of course, Mr & Mrs Ames are able to challenge the order and seek to have it revoked. What is concerning for HIG is that the order was granted in the first place.

We are trying to keep an open mind, but the slippage of timetables, non payment of creditors and the issuing and granting of the injunction does little to reassure us. Continue reading

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Lawyer’s urgent advice to Harlequin investors: “Fast deteriorating situation… No time to lose… safeguard your money” before professional indemnity insurance coverage stops!

“There is no time to lose particularly if you are an investor in Harlequin Property SVG Ltd, Buccament Bay Resort or other Harlequin resort development companies. We strongly recommend that you review your legal position now so that claims can be set in motion to safeguard your money.”

Gareth Fatchett of Regulatory Legal Solicitors / Risk Warning / Harlequin Investor Group

“Once Harlequin fails, new claims against your financial adviser’s professional indemnity insurance coverage stop. Better file a claim now!”

Marcus Davidoff of Barbados Free Press

Harlequin Resort

Investors who put their faith in Harlequin are still left in a vacuum

Investors clamouring for answers from Harlequin, the beleaguered Essex-based overseas property company, say the silence from the company is conspicuous. This was the overwhelming response to a survey of over 150 investors conducted by Risk Warning, the law firm specialising in class actions on behalf of distressed investors. (Risk Warning was formerly Regulatory Legal)

The key findings of the survey (attached) reveal that –

  • Contractual completion dates for properties they purchased through the Harlequin Property Scheme between 2008-10 were not met by two thirds of those surveyed
  • In cases where mortgages were taken out by investors and Harlequin promised to support the mortgage interest payments, 50% said they were not up to date
  • 40% of investors asked for their money back from Harlequin but only two have had the money returned
  • 45% of investors were told the Harlequin investments were low risk and a further 40% did not receive a description of the investment risk

Since 2006 all the investors surveyed have been paying into the Harlequin scheme by cash, through their pension scheme, or by remortgaging their existing properties. In a fast deteriorating situation surrounding Harlequin, which was to have been the subject of a cancelled BBC Panorama programme on 25th March, developments include –

  • Severe problems with interest payments on borrowings due under the terms of Harlequin’s agreement with investors
  • An FSA alert questioning the suitability of advice given by advisers who recommended Harlequin as an appropriate pension-based investment
  • An investigation by the Serious Fraud Office and Essex Police who are seeking information from investors in Harlequin schemes in the Caribbean and elsewhere
  • The decision by TailorMade Independent (TMI), a leading IFA and Harlequin distributor to stop taking SIPP investments in Harlequin
  • The resignation of Harlequin’s recently appointed accountant, BDO Stoy Hayward

Commenting on the findings of the survey, Risk Warning’s Gareth Fatchett says: ‘What is clear to us is that investors are unnerved by the lack of information from Harlequin, causing fear, doubt and uncertainty about the safety of their investments. We believe that the responses we have had to our survey are indicative for thousands of Harlequin investors up and down the country. We are now pressing ahead with claims on behalf of an additional 20 Harlequin investors seeking refunds due to missed completion dates. We have also set up meetings in Manchester , Birmingham and London this week for investors who are seeking answers to delays with Harlequin projects.’

Mr Fatchett continues: ‘Amongst a whole range of accounting and governance issues, questions we are asking include – Continue reading

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BBC bribery allegations a distraction in the Harlequin scandal

BBC Harlequin

Let’s assume that the BBC reporter did try to bribe a Harlequin employee… SO WHAT?

A BBC Panorama staffer has been sacked after Harlequin alleged that the BBC employee approached a Harlequin employee with bribes in return for information. BBC is reporting the staffer to the police so it looks like there might be something to the allegations… or maybe not. Ya never know the truth of these things really until they are over and even then you wonder.

But let’s say that the BBC staffer did exactly what is alleged… offered a job to Harlequin’s security chief in exchange for information. Maybe that is against the law, maybe not… but it doesn’t have a damn thing to do with what happened in the last six years with Harlequin.

Trust me on this folks… Harlequin will make the big noise about this, and make the most of it…

… but it doesn’t change a damned thing about Harlequin taking money and promising to build thousands of homes and building practically nothing.

Don’t be too concerned about this BBC happening. Keep your eye focused on the main event: Where is the money, where are the vacation homes?

BBC Panorama producer resigns after developer’s ‘bribery’ allegation

Harlequin says it will to go to the police over claim attempt was made to bribe security consultant to disclose information.

The producer at the centre of Panorama bribery allegations has left the BBC as it emerged that Harlequin, the luxury Caribbean property developer that lodged the complaint with the corporation, is to take its grievance to the police. Continue reading

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Harlequin Properties stunner! “No agent confirmed Harlequin’s land holdings or company information” SIPP-Pension investors advised to act immediately

Harlequin Resort

“…the due diligence undertaken was the brochures, sale presentations and (free) trips to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

“SIPP Investors / Pension Transfers would be foolhardy to wait as Professional Indemnity Insurance stops immediately upon an insolvency procedure.”

Regulatory Legal Solicitors special report posted on Barbados Free Press

Harlequin investors are sure to be flabbergasted by today’s posting at Barbados Free Press by UK law firm Regulatory Legal Solicitors and their leading lawyer Gareth Fatchett. Mr. Fatchett was in the news lately as he was successful in achieving some kind of settlement for a handful of Harlequin victims.

Today’s Regulatory Legal Solicitors posting alleges that none of the agents advising folks to invest in Harlequin took the trouble to confirm that Harlequin actually held the land it was selling. No sales agent went to the trouble of obtaining company information about Harlequin’s Caribbean operations. And if you want to talk about “Due Diligence”, the agents confined their research to brochures, Harlequin sales presentations and (presumably free) trips to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Throw in free drinks and a few “hostesses” and Bob’s your uncle… the agents were ready to sell Harlequin and at a tempting 30% commission at that. (Not that we’ve heard of Harlequin doing the “hostesses” thing, but this is the Caribbean ya know!)

Master Agent suspends Harlequin sales

The master agent has apparently stopped selling Harlequin so we’ll have more on that in a bit. That sounds important to us because once the sales stop, how can Harlequin sustain current operations even if they scale back? We’re not even talking about building and new construction, just keeping the place open. There’s no staff worth talking about at the Barbados operations, and that is worth thinking about. Was the master agent “TailorMade” ? Can someone advise? See IFA Online’s article Harlequin distributor pulls plug on new investment.

Mr. Fatchett advises SIPP Investors and Pension Transfers to take action immediately because if Harlequin goes insolvent, that is the the end of Professional Indemnity Insurance. Complain now and if it all goes for a fall, the agents’ insurance might cover something. Wait… and, well, the lawyer doesn’t say other than the agents’ indemnity insurance ends but you can read between the lines for yourself. The post also provides advice for other classes of Harlequin investors, so have a read and make up your own mind, folks!

Discussion in the Comments Section

We’re going to make this post the current place at BFP to discuss the Harlequin situation, so join in and please remember to be respectful to each other and also watch the language, okay?

To keep all current discussion in one place, we’re also going to close off comments on previous articles and direct people here. That will take some time so please be patient.

Marcus @ BFP

As posted at Barbados Free Press by Regulatory Legal Solicitors…

Following the court hearing last Thursday, we are now in a position where we understand the full extent of the land holdings and build costs for the various Harlequin projects.

The court hearing last week resulted in a settlement for our clients. The terms of which are confidential.

A few things are very clear :-

1. No agent went to the trouble of obtaining confirmation as to the land position.
2. No agent went to the trouble of obtaining Caribbean company information.
3. Some of the SIPP providers in the main relied on an external due diligence process in 2010 & 2011. We have confirmation

We have both the land acquisition schedule and an affidavit from the new Harlequin accountant setting out the build costs etc. We are currently running the maths to work out.

HMSSE turnover 2006 – 2011
-less land acquisition costs
-less commissions
-less building costs
-less overheads

This should give us an indication of the actual position of the group. There is no evidence of external investors (into the equity of the business) and no evidence of any development finance.

Once again we find it remarkable that agents / IFA’s / SIPP’s have not seen this. These are accounting basics.   Continue reading

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Serious Fraud Office asked to investigate Harlequin – “3,000 Britons fall victim”

Harlequin Pension Fraud

(click photo for full size)

Mail on Sunday visits Merricks Beach Resort in Barbados “Rubbish-strewn field”

“We have been left completely in the dark and fear we’ve lost everything. they haven’t even started building the resort yet.”

Merricks buyer Mrs. Gupta in the Daily Mail article 3,000 Britons fall victim to £250million fantasy villa fiasco

The Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday are publishing a series of investigative news articles about David Ames and the Harlequin Property scandal that saw thousands of people ‘invest’ in what is so obviously a Ponzi pyramid scheme that relies upon finding new ‘investors’ to pay sums promised to earlier ‘investors’.

Journalist Russell Myers and his colleagues Martin Delgado and Sharon Churcher published the first piece in the series on Saturday, February 23, 2013.

Online reports from investors here at Barbados Free Press and elsewhere recently revealed that Harlequin is behind in interest payments to some investors who took out mortgages and loans to fund their Harlequin purchases. Harlequin was supposed to pay the interest to the purchasers’ financial institutions as part of the agreement with the ‘investors’ but it looks like the house of cards is getting very shaky indeed.

The role of the governments of Barbados and other Caribbean nations caught up in the Harlequin scandal is also drawing international attention and must reflect badly upon the involved Caribbean governments and nations.

Barbados and the other nations failed to protect foreign investors and as a result the Harlequin fiasco will taint the region’s other resort and retirement projects for many years. Barbados Free Press has been extensively covering this story because we believe our leaders made very poor decisions about Ames and Harlequin in an environment where Barbados lacks Integrity Legislation, Conflicts of Interest standards and Freedom of Information laws. The lack of accountability for elected and appoint public officials likely played a large role in how Barbados politicians welcomed David Ames and his ‘political donations’…

“Our government gave Ames and Harlequin the benefit of our country’s reputation – and when the Harlequin house of cards falls, it will be the reputation of Barbados that is harmed the most.

Something for our ‘leaders’ to think about the next time that some offshore investor property developer arrives bearing gifts – because no doubt Mr. Ames spread some gifts around freely.”

… from the January 26, 2013 BFP story How Harlequin damaged Barbados reputation

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