Conman scammed thousands into paying £400m for never-built Caribbean properties

A man has been convicted by the Serious Fraud Office for encouraging thousands to invest a whopping £400million in non-existent Caribbean properties.

The head of the Harlequin Group for seven years, David Ames, 70, has been found guilty of two counts of fraud by abuse of position.

Ames, who filed no evidence for the case, was found guilty at Southwark Crown Court.

Investors were encouraged to put in 30 per cent investment into unbuilt hotels and rooms. In total 8,000 investors were convinced to pay into the scheme.

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Half of the money they invested went to the company and salesmen as fees. The remaining 15 per cent would then go into the construction of the accommodation.

However, no additional funding was secured for the scheme.

In total, around 9,000 units were sold to investors at various resorts on multiple islands dotted about the Caribbean.

A total of 200 units were built before Harlequin folded in 2013, leading to investor losses of £398m.

Celebrity endorsements, tennis, golf and football academies were all part of the armoury of tempting offerings Ames promised.

The Prime Ministers of Barbados, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines all endorsed the project following Ames’ efforts.

Mr Ames made £6.2m through his deceit, employing his son and wife through Harlequin.

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Matthew Ames, his son, made £10,000 per month.

Director of the Serious Fraud Office Lisa Osofsky said: "David Ames committed fraud on a huge scale, knowingly exposing thousands of UK investors to losses totalling hundreds of millions of pounds."

It was discovered in the investigations that staff who raised questions about the legitimacy of the operation had their employment terminated.

He also told colleagues that in order to avoid “bad press” about the scheme investors needed to be "put in their place”, the Telegraph reports.

In 2014, Ames was jailed for 40 months after he orchestrated a bogus rainforest protection scheme to swindle ethical investors out of £1.6m.

Ames is due for sentencing in September 2022.


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