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Mis-Sold Harlequin Property - Pension Claims

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The Harlequin Property overseas resorts saga has been going on a while… does your story end with a winning claim?

Harlequin Properties was supposed to build over 6000 amazing and profitable hotel and rental properties in stunning Caribbean locations, but despite accepting around £400m from UK investors from sources like SIPP pensions (for which some agents were paid 15% commission, by the way), only around 300 got built.

Now, Harlequin has become an example of what can go wrong with high-risk and unregulated overseas property developments, right from the way it was sold by a network of marketing companies who cold-called their targets, and Independent Financial Advisers who mis-sold it, to where it is today – with the Saint Vincent & The Grenadines section (Harlequin SVG) in insolvency proceedings, and their chairman appearing in court under charges of fraud.

Harlequin Properties first appeared to many investors in calls from unregulated marketing companies or at property investing seminars: cold-calling firms who’d ring up, seemingly “out-of-the-blue”, usually to offer a pension review.

In some cases, high-pressure techniques were used, such as down-playing people’s current pension arrangements, and inflating the security and safety of a Harlequin Properties investment, itself a high-risk and unregulated investment: not under the jurisdiction of the FCA.

The FSCS has paid out over £98m in compensation for Harlequin.

Do you have a claim too? Speak to a claims handler from Spencer Churchill Claims Advice for a free, no-obligation check today.

Can You Claim For Harlequin Properties Mis-Selling Compensation?

Several financial advisers and the FSCS have been paying out compensation for having been mis-sold Harlequin Properties investments via SIPPs and SSASs for a few years, with Spencer Churchill Claims Advice often leading the claim on a No Win – No Fee* basis.

If you:

  • Transferred your pension to a SIPP
  • Invested in Harlequin Properties or other high-risk investments
  • Aren’t earning over £100k per year
  • Aren’t a Sophisticated Investor

Then you may have been mis-sold, and you could be able to make a claim for negligent SIPP advice.

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Problems With Harlequin Property

Putting aside that this investment was often mis-sold be not one but several regulated financial advisers, the investment scheme itself didn’t go well either.

As early as 2013, investors started to get wind that something there were problems at Harlequin properties.

Properties simply weren’t always being built, making it near impossible for the investment money to generate returns for investors.

But what had happened to the Harelquin Properties money?

Fears were compounded when the Serious Fraud Office here in the UK launched an investigation in March 2013.

Whatever happened to the investment, problems started for most investors when they were unsuitably advised to invest their pensions into the high-risk scheme.

If you’re one of them, take a free initial assessment with one of our experienced case handlers to see if you can make a claim.

Harlequin Properties Timeline Of Events

  • The Resort Group Begins


    While transfers into Harlequin may have started as early as 2008, the problems started to become evident in 2013, by which time the Serious Fraud Office had launched their investigation into the Harlequin group of companies, focusing on investments made between 2010 and 2015.

    By now, some Harlequin investors were already reporting an absence of projected returns, and financial journalists began to cover the story, with one Guardian Article explaining that while over 5000 properties had been sold, and over 1,200 homes were due to have started construction, none had in fact got much further than “broken ground”.

    Chairman David Ames was reported to have blamed the “slow development progress” on the “theft of millions of pounds from his company by a rogue developer”.
  • Court Case


    In October 2014, Harlequin lost a court case with a group of 33 investors.
    The investors, who had paid 30% deposits from hotel rooms sold as “freehold” were told they would receive high-returns, but did not receive their titles over the hotel rooms and were denied the return of their deposits.

    Elsewhere, articles began to appear in mainstream news outlets, such as The Independent, which ran the headline “British Couple could lose £50,000 after investing in Harlequin Property“.

    The same year, Chairman David Ames’ son – Matthew Ames – was jailed for 3 years for his involvement in £1.6m fraud – an apparent “Ponzi Scheme” linked to Carbon Credits and teak forestry investments following a 2 year investigation.

  • Investments Valued At £1


    In July 2016, the Financial Ombudsman Service published a case upheld against AM Wealth Management – a financial adviser firm that advised their client, “Mr G” to invest in Harlequin Properties…
    Mr G transferred his pension into a SIPP: Self-Invested Personal Pension in order to invest £48,000 into Harlequin Properties through AM Wealth Management after receiving a cold-call from a marketing firm.

    The FOS said that Mr G seemed to have no investment experience, and had “limited capacity for loss” – meaning that he didn’t have the cash to be running the risk of a high-risk and unregulated investment like Harlequin.

    As part of the Ombudsman Decision, a value of £1 was accepted for Mr G’s investment, previously purchased at £48,000.

    Mr G went on to win a claim against AM Wealth Management.

  • Wilkins Kennedy And ICE


    It’s about this time that Harlequin’s dispute with former auditing firm Wilkins Kennedy began to come to light. Employed by Harlequin between 2006 and 2010, Wilkins Kennedy provided David Ames’ firm with financial and business advice concentrating on the Buccament Bay Resort (SVG division), but resigned it’s position…
    Harlequin technically won it’s case against former Auditors Wilkins Kennedy, but didn’t get the amount it thought it went for, and not without some damning words handed down by the presiding judge to Chairman David Ames:

    Mr Ames described himself as a visionary. In my view, that is not an apt description. I consider that he was more of a Walter Mitty-type figure who, through an uphappy mixture of dishonesty, naivety and incompetence, has caused irreparable loss to thousands of people.”“Mr Ames candidly admitting lying on various occasions during the course of the development of the resort [..] I consider that the Harlequin business model was, at least potentially, dishonest from start to finish.

    October 2016 also saw Harlequin SVG enter into Insolvency Proceedings…

    Declared insolvent by Chairman David Ames, court documents in Saint Vincent named around 130 creditors with claims ranging from £24k to £163k. A Mr Glasgow of KPMG took over the insolvency proceedings, and had the assigned task of finding a solution to satisfy creditors’ claims. Failure to find a viable solution may mean that Harlequin SVG enters into formal liquidation, meaning it may be difficult for investors to get their money back through this avenue.

  • David Ames Fraud Charges


    As a result of the Serious Fraud Office investigation, David Ames was charged with Fraud By Abuse Of Position in 2017.
    When the date came, Ames appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court and was leveled with 2 charges of Fraud by Abuse of Position, from 1 January 2010 through to 31 December 2013, and then again between February 2011 and December 2013. A third charge related to his position at Harlequin Hotels and Resorts, from June 2012 and June 2015.
    Afterwards, Ames was released on conditional bail to appear again in April at Southwark Crown Court.
    Later, Ames denied “cheating” investors in his court appearance on the 7th November 2017.

    With all hearings and pleas said and done, David Ames is set to return to court for the fraud trial on 7 January 2019.

  • FSCS's £125m Bill


    With many financial advisers either going out of business because of negligent advice claims, or simply disappearing with their fees, the FSCS has long been footing the bill for Harlequin Properties mis-selling cases.
    In March 2019, it was revealed that the FSCS had paid out a total of £125m in claims relating to Harlequin.

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Harlequin Properties FAQ’s

How Do I Know If I Was Mis-Sold A Harlequin Investment?

Harlequin was always a high-risk investment and should never have been suggested to many of the people who ended up invested.

Unregulated investments MAY have been considered suitable for people who are earning over £100k per year, or people who have a wealth of knowledge and experience about investing.

If not, the advice may well have been unsuitable, and it could be that a claim is possible.

Why Was Harlequin Properties High Risk?

Being based abroad, Harlequin Properties was NOT regulated by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority). It means that the FCA wasn’t looking over its shoulder.

Can Cash Investors Make A Claim?

Until quite recently, Cash Investors have been unable to make claims via the FSCS, however the FSCS says it will now consider cash claims for people who took negligent financial advice to invest in Harlequin.

Are There Harlequin Investor Forums?

They’ve been quite a few Harlequin properties investor forums. A quick search online should bring you a few.

Do you know how people complained about mis-sold investments and pensions in the last year?

A lot. Over twenty thousand complaints were made about mis-sold pensions and investments in 2020/21, a figure which had doubled since the year before.. It’s no secret how serious this problem is, and it just seems to keep getting worse.

People receive poor financial advice every day. Sometimes they don’t even realise that they’re owed whopping amounts of compensation.
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Reaching out for help is never easy,
especially if you’ve been misled in the past.

But getting in touch with us won’t commit you to anything. We want to toss you a lifeboat and guide you through the choppy waters of the financial ocean, not leave you struggling to stay afloat. Our experts are here to offer advice and support on financial claims. We know what we’re doing and you can trust that if you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.

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Speak to an expert today

We have decades of experience in helping people claim back money that is rightfully theirs. Whether you want to make a mis-sold pension claim, have questions about a mis-sold investment, or you’re just looking for some advice you can trust – we’ve got you covered. Reach out to our team today for a no-obligation, completely free chat. 

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