Harlequin Hotels’ Ames in brief court appearance

David Ames, chairman of Harlequin Hotels & Resorts, appeared briefly in Southwark Crown Court in London today to plead not guilty to three charges of fraud by abuse of position, as the long-running saga of Ames’s Essex, UK-based resort development company continued.  

Ames’s appearance followed an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office, and will see him return to face trial on 7 January, 2019, according to reports.

Ames, pictured below, didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

The Harlequin saga began more than a decade ago, when Harlequin broke ground on what it planned to make its flagship development in St Vincent and the Grenadines, known as Buccament Bay.

Thousands of mainly UK residents began buying off-plan properties at the suggestion of their financial advisers, and at first Buccament Bay – promoted by such celebrities as tennis champion Pat Cash, golfer Gary Player and TV property expert Phil Spencer – seemed destined to become a new Caribbean favourite among British sun-lovers. Sometime around 2010 it began to run into trouble, and ended up in the courts.

As reported, Ames sought earlier this year to revive the development through the creation of a scheme that would allow it to begin operating and use the money so earned to pay off the scheme’s debts, and ultimately, the investors the properties they’d paid for.

Ames said it was his intention to put the US$11.5m the company had won in a court case – minus legal fees and other costs – towards restoring the Buccament Bay development to “full use for the benefit of Harlequin Property (SVG) investors”, who, he explained, would be handed ownership of it as part of the deal. In total there were said to be around 3,600 individual investors in HP (SVG), and most of them were left out-of-pocket when the company ran into trouble.

Ames’s plan failed to get the necessary approvals, and in February, the company entered bankruptcy. Ames was charged with fraud the following month.

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