The SFO (Serious Fraud Office) jointly with Essex Police has been investigating Harlequin and the scandal which is their property investment scheme since 2013.
The investigations has so far uncovered that the scheme took £400m of mainly pension investors’ money to develop Caribbean villas that were never built.
Below is the chain of events that led to the investment:
- The consumer is the subject of an unsolicited approach by Hansard, concerning an “investment opportunity”. A meeting is then arranged at the consumer’s home.
- During the course of the subsequent meeting the consumer is told that they have an opportunity to invest in a property abroad. In the case of my clients the property is a hotel complex described as Buccament Bay in
- The consumer is told that they will be offered the opportunity to purchase a property at Buccament Bay in St. Vincent’s (or some similar resort) for say £200,000, but that there is no intention to ever purchase. Instead the consumer will merely pay a substantial deposit (often in excess of £40,000) raised by way of a mortgage on their home, and that Harlequin will make the payments on that mortgage. The resort will then be built and the consumer’s interest will be sold on to an investor, and they will receive their deposit back along with a 100% profit.
- In other words Harlequin are using consumers to fund the building of a resort, rather than a commercial bank.
- The consumer is then “assisted” by Harlequin and their agents in releasing the £40,000 deposit from their home by entering into a mortgage with a reputable UK Bank.
The resorts that were the subject of the investment are as follows:
(1) Buccament Bay in St. Vincent & the Grenadines
(2) Merricks in Barbados
(3) Marquis Estate in St. Lucia
(4) The Hideaway in the Dominican Republic
(5) Las Cana in the Dominican Republic
(6) Two Rivers in the Dominican Republic
(7) Garapua Beach Resort in Brazil
Prior to October, the SFO was reaching out to anyone that had invested in Harlequin in order to help their investigations. This plea for information has now been closed and it is reported that the SFO has entered the final stages of its investigations.
To add salt to the wound, Harlequin now claims that its chartered accountants “caused losses by breaching its fiduciary duty and contract related to the construction of a hotel resort in the Caribbean.
The company, Wilkins Kennedy, has denied all the allegations made against it.
One report has stated that;
“Court documents related to the case reveal that Wilkins Kennedy has provided evidence of its dealings with Harlequin to the SFO, as the fraud unit investigates claims of criminal wrongdoing against Harlequin.The evidence includes statements and draft statements from partners at Wilkins Kennedy, Martin MacDonald and Dan Garside. After deliberations, the High Court has decided that the evidence given to the SFO should be disclosed to Harlequin as well as the court”.
“With around £400m originally invested in Harlequin, the compensation bill is set to run into hundreds of millions of pounds, putting it on a par with other investment disasters like Keydata and Arch cru”.
The SFO stated in September;
“The SFO would like to thank all the investors who completed the questionnaire. The online questionnaire is no longer available. Investors who would still like to complete a questionnaire should email the SFO atHLMquestionnaire@sfo.gsi.gov.uk with their contact details”
They also stated that Harlequin investors who invested via a SIPP following advice from an Independent Financial Advisor firm which is no longer trading, may be entitled to compensation from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (“FSCS”). Further details can be found on FSCS’s website.
As the SFO steps into its final stages, investors wait to see if and when a criminal case will be filed against Harlequin. In the meantime, as stated above, you can seek compensation. Get in touch with the FSCS and make your claim.
If you paid a deposit on your credit card, contact the card company and make a claim under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 – See details HERE
Posted on: November 25, 2015
For more information regarding this article or assistance in any other timeshare related issues please contact the TCA on 01253 804 318 or email: info@TimeshareConsumerAssociation.org.uk