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 weekLegal papers will be lodged to freeze the assets of Harlequin PropertyCompany paid tennis star Pat Cash to appear in its promotional materialHarlequin Property failed to make interest payments to investors
Russell Myers and Sharon Churcher
22:00 GMT, 2 March 2013
02:01 GMT, 3 March 2013
David Ames is alleged to have collected millions of pounds for ambitious building projects in the Caribbean and Brazil
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.
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
An artist's impression of the luxury Merricks Resort in Barbados
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 wellbeing 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.’