Timeline of events: Harlequin Property
2013 - Problems at Harlequin
By 2013, many investors realised something was going wrong with their Harlequin Properties investment
, and many lost further faith when the Serious Fraud Office announced an investigation into the Harlequin Group
of companies on the 5th
March 2013, in relation to investments made in Harlequin from January 2010.
A SFO questionnaire was later produced and was filled in by many investors who placed their money into Harlequin between 2010 and 2015.
By now, some Harlequin investors were already reporting an absence of projected returns, and financial journalists began to cover the story, with one Guardian Article explaining that while over 5000 properties had been sold, and over 1,200 homes were due to have started construction, none had in fact got much further than “broken ground”.
Chairman David Ames was reported to have blamed the “slow development progress” on the “theft of millions of pounds from his company by a rogue developer”.
2014 - Court Case
In October 2014, Harlequin lost a court case with a group of 33 investors.
The investors, who had paid 30% deposits from hotel rooms sold as “freehold” were told they would receive high-returns, but did not receive their titles over the hotel rooms and were denied the return of their deposits.
Elsewhere, articles began to appear in mainstream news outlets, such as The Independent, which ran the headline “British Couple could lose £50,000 after investing in Harlequin Property“.
The same year, Chairman David Ames’ son – Matthew Ames – was jauled for 3 years for his involvement in £1.6m fraud – an apparent “Ponzi Scheme” linked to Carbon Credits and teak forestry investments following a 2 year investigation.
2016 - Valued at £1
In July 2016, the Financial Ombudsman Service published a case upheld against AM Wealth Management – a financial adviser firm that advised their client, “Mr G” to invest in Harlequin Properties…
Mr G transferred his pension into a SIPP: Self-Invested Personal Pension in order to invest £48,000 into Harlequin Properties through AM Wealth Management after receiving a cold-call from a marketing firm.
The FOS said that Mr G seemed to have no investment experience, and had “limited capacity for loss” – meaning that he didn’t have the cash to be running the risk of a high-risk and unregulated investment like Harlequin.
As part of the Ombudsman Decision, a value of £1 was accepted for Mr G’s investment, previously purchased at £48,000.
Mr G went on to win a claim against AM Wealth Management.
2016 - Wilkins Kennedy and ICE
t’s about this time that Harlequin’s dispute
with former auditing firm Wilkins Kennedy
began to come to light. Employed by Harlequin between 2006 and 2010, Wilkins Kennedy provided David Ames’ firm with financial and business advice concentrating on the Buccament Bay Resort
(SVG division), but resigned it’s position…
Harlequin technically won it’s case against former Auditors Wilkins Kennedy, but didn’t get the amount it thought it went for, and not without some damning words handed down by the presiding judge to Chairman David Ames:
“Mr Ames described himself as a visionary. In my view, that is not an apt description. I consider that he was more of a Walter Mitty-type figurem who, through an uphappy mixture of dishonesty, naivety and incompetence, has caused irreparable loss to thousands of people.”
“Mr Ames candidly admitting lying on various occasions during the course of the development of the resort [..] I consider that the Harlequin business model was, at least potentially, dishonest from start to finish.”
October 2016 also saw Harlequin SVG enter into Insolvency Proceedings…
Declared insolvent by Chairman David Ames, court documents in Saint Vincent named around 130 creditors with claims ranging from £24k to £163k. A Mr Glasgow of KPMG took over the insolvency proceedings, and had the assigned task of finding a solution to satisfy creditors’ claims. Failure to find a viable solution may mean that Harlequin SVG enters into formal liquidation, meaning it may be difficult for investors to get their money back through this avenue.
2017 - David Ames Fraud Charges
As a result of the Serious Fraud Office investigation, David Ames was charged with Fraud By Abuse Of Position in 2017.
When the date came, Ames appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court and was leveled with 2 charges of Fraud by Abuse of Position, from 1 January 2010 through to 31 December 2013, and then again between February 2011 and December 2013. A third charge related to his position at Harlequin Hotels and Resorts, from June 2012 and June 2015.
Afterwards, Ames was released on conditional bail to appear again in April at Southwark Crown Court.
Later, Ames denied “cheating” investors in his court appearance on the 7th November 2017.
With all hearings and pleas said and done, David Ames is set to return to court for the fraud trial on 7 January 2019.