EXCLUSIVE: Fraud trial of Harlequin Property boss Dave Ames due to start 5 years after charges made
THE fraud trial of the boss of a celebrity-endorsed business that sold an estimated £400 million of off-plan properties at planned luxury Caribbean holiday resorts is set to begin more than five years after he was first charged.
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) charged David Ames, 70, former chairman of the Harlequin Group of companies, with three counts of fraud by abuse of position, contrary to section one of the Fraud Act 2006, in February 2017.
However, the trial has yet to be opened.
The case returned to Southwark Crown Court on April 19 when the jury was selected, but was further delayed due to legal arguments.
The Harlequin Property scheme had endorsements from celebrities including former Wimbledon winner Pat Cash (above), golf legend Gary Player, football pundit Andy Townsend (below right with Ames), TV property guru Phil Spender, and Liverpool Football Club.
More than 6,000 units are believed to have been bought, with many people using Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs) or life savings for the investments.
Off-plan properties are those that are purchased by an investor before they have been developed or completed.
Harlequin Property allegedly sold properties at planned resorts across St Vincent, St Lucia, and Barbados, but the case centres around allegations that many were never built.
Resorts were endorsed or advertised by a number of celebrities, including Cash who put his name to a tennis academy at the flagship Buccament Bay resort (main image) in St Vincent, which was partially built.
Others included Player (above left with Ames), who put his name to a planned golf course at the proposed Marquis Estate in St Lucia.
Mr Spencer said he had invested in one of the firm's properties during a promotional video (still image below) he filmed for the business, and football player turned pundit Townsend was at one time the face of Harlequin Property on its website.
Liverpool Football club also puts its name to planned football academies across the resorts.
There is no suggestions that the football club or any of the celebrities who endorsed or promoted the business have been involved in any wrongdoing.
The SFO says the alleged activity occurred between January 2010 and June 2015.
At the time of the charges in 2017, an SFO spokesman said: "The business activity of the Harlequin Group includes the marketing, sale and construction of luxury off-plan property developments in the Caribbean and other resort locations."
The trial is expected to open this month.