I read about this at the weekend and as I have been considering investing my pension fund in overseas property, I thought it wise to share this with other property investors who may have already considered what originally looked like a superb investment opportunity.
The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has issued an ‘alert’ about Harlequin Property and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has been asked to investigate.
Up to 3,000 UK based property investors have poured up to £250 Million (GBP) of their savings into a controversial Caribbean property scheme which is now facing the threat of legal action.
Many investors say they fear financial calamity after being persuaded by pension advisers to put large sums into projects run by Essex-based Harlequin Property, who promised to build 6,000 luxury villas in St Lucia, St Vincent, Barbados and the Dominican Republic.
So far only 300 have been constructed.
The Mail on Sunday has discovered that:
- Liverpool Football Club, Australian tennis star Pat Cash and former Republic of Ireland footballer Andy Townsend have allowed their names to be used in promotions.
- A businessman who put £112,000 (GBP) of his private pension into two Harlequin projects says no one at the company will give him a ‘straight answer’.
- A planned holiday village in Barbados which drew in millions of pounds in deposits is still little more than a building site.
- Auditors say they can’t be sure Harlequin’s accounts are accurate because of ‘historic and ongoing problems’.
- A former prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines says local builders and suppliers have not been paid in full.
Harlequin, however, points to its successful developments elsewhere and says its record-keeping is being improved.
David Ames, 61, who runs the company with wife Carol, also 61, and son Daniel, 35, from a business park in Basildon, strongly denies misleading investors.
He says he has been duped by contractors which are now the subject of legal action and that all the projects will eventually be completed.
But Gareth Fatchett, of Regulatory Legal Solicitors, which represents a group of Harlequin clients, said: ‘We have serious concerns that the advice to invest for most investors is seriously flawed.
Many people have invested all their pensions in Harlequin products. We have sent our lawyers to Barbados and St Vincent to check out the land, accounting and building progress. On all fronts we have concerns.’
In October 2011, David Ames announced that work had begun on a ‘show village’ for a new development, the Merricks Beach Resort, in Barbados.
But a Mail on Sunday reporter who visited the site last week found a plywood sign for a ‘luxury five-star resort’ mounted in a rubbish-strewn field.
A potholed farm track petered out at a partially finished guardhouse.
‘I don’t believe this resort will be finished in my lifetime,’ said Clyde Mason, who lives nearby.
Businessman Paul Walton, who released £112,000 from his pension scheme for deposits on two properties, said: ‘I just can’t see these properties being built. I feel badly let down by Harlequin because no one is prepared to give a straight answer.’
The FSA said: ‘We have seen an increasing number of self-invested personal pension schemes whose underlying investment is in an overseas property purchased through Harlequin Property, a UK-based . . . sales agent that is not regulated by the FSA. The FSA expects advisers to have undertaken thorough due diligence on the various developments being sold through Harlequin.’
Arnhim Eustace, a former prime minister of St Vincent, told the Mail on Sunday he had seen a 40-page complaint to the SFO and added that the project also has been plagued by claims that Harlequin built part of the resort on land that it did not own and by complaints that contractors and suppliers have not been fully paid..
‘I have been sent a copy of the submission which I understand was sent to the SFO, It is a 40-page document filed on behalf of people who want to get back their money. Two building companies and seven individuals have contacted me to say they were owed money, I appealed to Harlequin to pay them but with no result. These are people like a pineapple farmer, owed as little as 1500 (St Vincent dollars) for pineapples. He says he was paid only 300.’
A spokesman for Cash said: ‘Harlequin is licensed for a period of time to use the name of the Pat Cash Tennis Academy.’
Liverpool FC did not respond to requests to comment, and a spokesman for Mr Townsend was unavailable.
Read the full story: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2283474/3-000-Britons-fall-victim-250million-fantasy-villa-fiasco-Holiday-home-scheme-promoted-Pat-Cash-investigated-fraud-police.html#ixzz2LvGzPOe5
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