Harlequin Property insolvent after scamming expats out of millions

Published:  21 Oct at 4 PM
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Harlequin Property SVG, infamous amongst expats for its Caribbean and Thailand property scams, is now insolvent and has appointed a professional trustee.

The company is based on St Vincent and the Grenadines, a Caribbean offshore location for many companies with doubtful legitimacy, and is the offshoot of another company with the same name. Briton David Ames and his sidekick Richard Houghton were instrumental in swindling expat pensioners out of their savings by selling off-plan beachside condos, only a few of which were actually built.

Some £300 million is estimated to have been lost by victims of the scam involving properties in the Caribbean and Thailand. At the same time, Ames’s son Matthew was jailed in the UK for defrauding investors via a Ponzi scheme. Later, the UK’s Financial Conduct Agency banned a distributor of the dodgy deals and fined him £169,500 – a small amount against the £112 million lost by investors.

The latest move against Harlequin comes after the UK’s Serious Fraud Office began an investigation into the company, which offered pensioners a 10 per cent guaranteed monthly return on their money via rents on 6,000 luxury Caribbean villas, only a few hundred of which were constructed. Harlequin still owns the land on which the villas were to have stood.

According to Harlequin, the declared insolvency was aimed at protecting thousands of investors, but has pre-empted legal action in the UK aimed at winding up the company. Lawyers acting for one thousand disgruntled investors state the victims were persuaded to invest with Harlequin by certain independent financial advisors.

As the scheme was never registered in the UK, investors will not be able to access the Financial Services Compensation Scheme if Harlequin goes bust, and will lose all their money. David Ames is now facing a St Vincent Police investigation for tax evasion and theft totally £2.3 million.
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