Consumer watchdogs have lifted a veil to give some idea of the financial chaos they are sorting out that was left behind by sunshine island resort firm Harlequin.
The Financial Services Compensation Scheme has paid 2,700 investors around £125 million compensation after they lost money in the scheme relating to the mis-selling of hotel and resort accommodation.
But that’s only one in three of the estimated 6,000 Harlequin investors who parted with £400 million – and the complaints are still going in to the FSCS.
Harlequin Group was several linked companies owned by chairman David Ames and his family.
The companies dealt with the marketing, sale and construction of resorts on the Caribbean islands of St Vincent and Grenadines, St Lucia, Barbados, and the Cayman Islands.
Financial advisers introducing investors were paid commissions of up to 15% of the value of the investment.
Although Ames had grand plans, few of the villas his company sold were built and the companies and properties are now worthless.
Ames, 66, and his wife Carol Ann, of Brock Hill, Wickford, Essex, were both made bankrupt in Southend, Essex, in December.
Most of the companies are insolvent, while Mr Ames has been charged with fraud by abuse of position relating to £390 million of missing money handed to Harlequin by investors.
The FSCS is pushing to recover more of Harlequin’s cash and other assets in a bid to repay as much compensation as possible to investors.
The FSCS confirmed funds handed over by investors were not spent on building the resorts.
Financial advisers mainly pushed Harlequin hotels and resorts as an unregulated investment for self-invested pension plans (SIPPs).
The Buccament Bay resort in St Vincent and the Grenadines was earmarked as Harlequin’s flagship resort.
The hotel ’soft-opened’ when part built in 2010, closing in December 2016. Hundreds of local workers were sacked without pay and have received no compensation.
The hotel remains closed, despite a bid by a local consortium to take over the property from bankruptcy trustees last year.
Celebrities including TV property guru Phil Spencer, tennis ace Pat Cash and TV soccer pundit Andy Townsend were linked with Harlequin, but none are involved in any wrongdoing.