KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, April 8, IWN — The BBC says it hopes to broadcast “in due course” its programme about Harlequin, the company that owns Buccament Bay Resort, even as it has accepted the resignation of the producer of the show.
Matthew Chapman, who was suspended amidst a BBC investigation into allegations that he attempted to bribe Harlequin consultant Sean Ghent, resigned as it emerged that Harlequin is to take its grievance to the police.
“BBC News confirmed today that it has accepted the resignation of a member of staff who had recently been suspended following a complaint made to Panorama. We are still looking at the facts behind the complaint made by Harlequin and hope that the film will be broadcast in due course,” the BBC said on Friday.
Two journalists — Matthew Hill and Paul Kenyon — working on the programme visited St. Vincent in February, and Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said that they accosted him on a landed plane in Barbados.
Harlequin, whose chairman, Dave Ames — who also has Vincentian citizenship — is at the focus of the BBC programme, released last week what it said were emails in which it Chapman attempted to “induce Mr Ghent into disclosing information about Harlequin in return for the potential reward of future work from the BBC”.
“It’s unlikely that Ames and maybe Harlequin will be around for much longer, nor will he have the money to pay people for much longer,” Chapman reportedly said in the email.
“There are a long list of creditors already I understand. Panorama and the BBC is always using security and protection officers and although I cannot guarantee anything we may be able to put things your way. Or we could work together on stories. Its [sic] always good to keep one eye on the future! How would you feel helping me out in a totally confidential way? Only the two of us would know of your involvement here,” the email attributed to Chapman further said.
Harlequin further said that other members of its staff had received similar communications from Chapman and that it was “shocked” by this “highly improper” behaviour.
“Panorama made no attempt to contact Harlequin prior to making serious (yet entirely false) allegations to others about Harlequin’s alleged conduct and failed to provide any evidence to support these allegations.”
The BBC programme about Harlequin was being made at a time when the Serious Fraud Office and Essex police launched a joint investigation into complaints relating to Harlequin.
Thousands of investors have put as much as 200 million pounds into a scheme run by Harlequin, which is also building luxury villas in St Lucia, Barbados and the Dominican Republic.
In St. Vincent, persons have complained about not being paid for works done or services provided to the company.
Further, Buccament Bay Resort Ltd., the company’s flag ship resort, has not filed any financial statements since it began operating seven years ago, a contravention of the laws of SVG.
Last week, Harlequin Hotels & Resorts halted operations in Barbados, where it owes employees two months’ salary, the National Insurance Scheme about BDS$80,000 and several local businesses and contractors in excess of DS$3 million.
The company said it was in the process of restructuring elements of its business.
“As a result a number of staff have been laid off and the H Barbados site has been closed on a temporary basis while this occurs. Harlequin is communicating closely with sub-contractors engaged on H and Merricks and hope to see them back at work again soon,” it said in a statement.