Son of Harlequin Property CEO denies Ponzi scam

Published:  23 Jan at 6 PM
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As the result of an investigation by the UK Financial Conduct Authority and fraud investigators, Michael Ames found himself in a London court today on charges of running a Ponzi scheme.

Ames, the son of Harlequin Properties CEO, David Ames, was charged with fraud in December 2012. The charges related to a £1.6 million Ponzi scheme involving two green investment schemes, the Investor Club and Forestry for Life.

Investors were snared by glossy brochures containing quotes from Prince Charles along with references to the Kyoto Protocol and Harvard University. One investor was shown land title deeds for a South American acreage not owned by Ames, and others were persuaded into the scheme by the implication of ethical investment.

The prosecution stated that no land was purchased or trees planted, and monies received from investors were used to attract more investment and fund business expenses and Ames’ and his staffs’ extravagant lifestyles. The sum of £250,000 paid back to investors came from new investors’ introduced funds.

According to the prosecution, the businesses started in 2008, with all payments to investors halted in 2010 and both businesses liquidated in 2011 following the then FSA’s investigation. Ames was arrested shortly after the liquidations and disqualified by the Insolvency Service in 2013 from acting as a company director.

A spokesperson from Harlequin stated that Ames has had no business connections with his father’s property company since his formal arrest on fraud charges in 2012. His trial, held at Isleworth Crown Court in West London, continues.
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