Britain’s Serious Fraud Office is now investigating Essex-based Harlequin Group regarding its marketing of high-end Caribbean villas linked with a self-investing personal pension product.
Harlequin’s business was not regulated by the Financial Services Authority, which is now writing to all UK FAs requesting the details of any client who has invested in the scheme. At the same time, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and Essex Police are also requesting full details of the transactions involved from anyone who has invested in the Caribbean resort off-plan sales schemes.
The SFO would also like to hear from others inadvertently caught up in the scam, and states that they may request a full witness statement where necessary. It’s known that a subsidiary of Harlequin, Harlequin Properties Thailand, has caused problems and losses to expats in the resort town of Pattaya, using similar methods.
It’s believed that thousands of investors have poured their savings into off-plan purchases of condos and villas in the Caribbean and Thailand, many of whom are now in touch with the FSA. A legal challenge by a group of investors is expected, based on mis-selling of a financial product.
Harlequin CEO David Ames has denied misleading investors and promised that the developments in question will be finished, blaming contactors for the problems. However, investigation has revealed that, out of 3,000 promised homes, only 300 have as yet been completed and interest payments due to investors have now ceased.