KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, March 3, IWN – Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace has been accused of being the source of an allegation that Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is investigating Harlequin, the company that owns Buccament Bay Resort.
British businessman Dave Ames, chair of Harlequin, levelled the accusation in a Feb. 25 letter to investors and agents, in which he also accused the British publication, Mail on Sunday, of publishing “a grossly misleading and defamatory article about Harlequin Property”.
“Harlequin has not been contacted by the SFO as part of any investigation,” Ames said in the letter, in which he also said his company is seeking advice on legal redress.
“This allegation stems from Mr Eustace, the opposition Leader in St Vincent and appears to be politically motivated,” Ames further said in the letter.
“It is an attempt to embroil Harlequin in local politics and is driven by those seeking to harm Harlequin. As far as Harlequin is concerned, there is no reason why the SFO would or should be looking at the company. However, in the event that the SFO wishes to discuss these matters with Harlequin, Harlequin will be happy to do so,” Ames further said.
Eustace told a press conference on Feb. 20 that the SFO is investigating Harlequin and that he has “a copy of submissions” to that office.
“I shall say more on this at a later date. This is as yet a developing matter,” he said in the wake of the fallout from an encounter in Barbados on Feb. 17 between Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and two BBC journalists who came to the region as part of an investigative programme about Harlequin.
Eustace said he was advised that sometime around Feb. 14, a U.K.-based lawyer from Regulatory Legal Solicitors, acting for a number of U.K. investors in the Buccament Bay Project, had flown to St. Vincent and the Grenadines “for the purpose of ascertaining the situation as it pertains to Harlequin’s Buccament Resort and to further investigate the land title at Buccament as it relates to the resort.
“I am further advised that all options — including an international freezing order the effect of which would be to halt the operation of the Buccament Resort –remain on the table for the U.K. investors he represents,” Eustace said.
Meanwhile, a British newspaper said on the weekend that efforts are underway in the United Kingdom to freeze Harlequin’s assets.
Ames is accused of taking 300 million pounds from British investors and failing to build thousands of luxury properties.
He has built around 300 properties and can be forced to stop trading this week, Mail Online reported on Saturday.
The publication says 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 further said that hundreds of financial advisers, who convinced investors to cash in their pensions, had been given just two days by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) to confirm if any of their clients have Self-Invested Personal Pension investments in Harlequin, and a further three days to provide all details”.
Mail Online quoted a source close to the investigation as saying, “This is a frightening situation for hundreds of investors, who could lose everything.”