Investigation of Caribbean Property Investment Scheme
This is one I have been monitoring for more than a year now. It is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office here in the UK, so I restrict my comments to just a summary of what has been published in the press.
Below I just reproduce 2 recently printed stories on the matter. The first article has been published in the Caribbean. The second has been published in the UK.
KINGSTOWN, St Vincent, Friday February 22, 2013 – Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace said on Wednesday that the United Kingdom Serious Fraud Office is investigating the Buccament Bay Resort project and that he has “a copy of submissions” made to that office.
“I shall say more on this at a later date. This is as yet a developing matter,” Eustace told a news conference as the fallout continues from an encounter between Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves and two journalists from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) over the weekend.
Eustace said he was advised that sometime around Thursday, a UK-based lawyer from Regulatory Legal Solicitors, acting for a number of UK investors in the Harlequin Buccament Bay Project, had flown to St Vincent and the Grenadines “for the purpose of ascertaining the situation as it pertains to Harlequin’s Buccament Resort and to further investigate the land title at Buccament as it relates to the resort.
“I am further advised that all options -- including an international freezing order, the effect of which would be to halt the operation of the Buccament Resort, remain on the table for the UK investors he represents,” Eustace said.
Gonsalves, during a call to a local radio station over the weekend, said the BBC journalists asked him about an allegation of bribery involving him and chair of Harlequin, Dave Ames.
He denied the allegation and has assured citizens that he is not corrupt.
Ames was granted citizenship because of his investment here.
Eustace told the news conference that Ames and the resort have “had a troubled history”.
“Locally, the project has been plagued by labour and land ownership disputes, litigation by investors, and arrears owed to vendors, the combination of which has prompted questions as to whether the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines exercised thorough due diligence in its assessment of Dave Ames and Harlequin,” said Eustace.
“I have on many occasions publicly called upon the project to honour its debts to local contractors and workers, with little success. Internationally, UK investors have instituted legal proceedings which have attracted coverage by British and regional press.”
He said the “allegations of bribery against the Prime Minister” … are causing “unease” among Vincentians locally and in the Diaspora, and have “cast a pall over St Vincent and the Grenadines’ investment landscape”.
Eustace said that in January, the UK’s Financial Services Authority issued an alert to British investors in Harlequin advising that there will be no financial assistance by London in respect of losses from their investments.
He further said that last Tuesday, “the BBC, in the persons of an investigative team working with that institution’s ‘Panorama’ programme, requested of me an interview in relation to Harlequin and Dave Ames”.
Eustace said he agreed to be interviewed and the interview took place at his home.
“While the cameras rolled, Mr Paul Kenyon of the BBC put to me allegations that Prime Minister Gonsalves received substantial bribes from Dave Ames and sought my response to these allegations if they were discovered to be true.
“In response, I indicated that if such were true, the Prime Minister would have to demit office,” Eustace said and denied making any allegations of corruption against Gonsalves in the interview.(CMC)
Story from - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2287140/Tycoon-accused-taking-300m-British-investors-faces-freeze-assets-failing-build-luxury-homes.html
By RUSSELL MYERS and SHARON CHURCHER
PUBLISHED: 22:00, 2 March 2013 | UPDATED: 02:01, 3 March 2013
Tycoon accused of taking £300m from British investors faces freeze on assets after failing to build luxury homes
- Former bankrupt David Ames could be forced to stop trading this week
- Legal papers will be lodged to freeze the assets of Harlequin Property
- Company paid tennis star Pat Cash to appear in its promotional material
- Harlequin Property failed to make interest payments to investors
A businessman accused of taking £300 million of British investors’ money – and failing to build thousands of luxury properties – could be forced to stop trading this week.
Former bankrupt David Ames is alleged to have collected millions of pounds for ambitious building projects in the Caribbean and Brazil, but less than 300 properties have so far been built.
Legal papers will be lodged at the High Court in Birmingham on Tuesday to freeze the assets of Harlequin Property and its directors in an attempt to claw back money for worried investors.
It is understood that Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs’ pensions regulator is also poised to act if a judge’s ruling is made on Friday.
A Mail on Sunday investigation has discovered that Harlequin Property – which has paid tennis star Pat Cash to feature in its promotional material – last month failed to make interest payments to investors who took out loans for deposits.
Now hundreds of financial advisers, who convinced investors to cash in their pensions, have been given just two days by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) to confirm if any of their clients have SIPP investments in the Essex-based firm, and a further three days to provide all details.
SIPPs are a personal pension plan allowing individuals to cash in their pension to invest in schemes such as property abroad.
A source close to the investigation said: ‘This is a frightening situation for hundreds of investors, who could lose everything.’
An FSA spokesman said: ‘We are trying to establish the levels of pensions held with Harlequin.’
Harlequin Property is not regulated by the FSA so there would be no protection to UK investors should the scheme collapse.
Last week The Mail on Sunday revealed the Serious Fraud Office had been asked to investigate the company amid fears that it had mis-sold investments.
Mr Ames, 61, who runs the company with wife Carol, also 61, and son Daniel, 35, from a business park in Basildon, Essex, last week issued a strongly worded denial concerning ‘grossly misleading’ claims of fraud. US Tax Singapore
In a letter sent to investors and agents last Monday, Mr Ames claimed allegations of fraud investigations were ‘politically motivated’.
Harlequin Property investor groups have been organising meetings across the country and plan to launch a series of lawsuits for breach of contract.
Gareth Fatchett of Regulatory Legal Solicitors, which represents a group of investors, said: ‘We have uncovered evidence which makes us very concerned at the financial well being of potentially thousands of investors.
‘Investors were promised totally unrealistic returns on their investments. Now the excuses are running out for Harlequin Property as to why they have not been able to build these resorts, not to mention what has happened to the money invested.’
A spokesman for Harlequin Property said: ‘Harlequin is aware there was an administrative error in relation to some payments – and we are instructed that these are in the process of being addressed and rectified.
‘Those affected have been contacted.’