Serious Fraud Office to investigate Harlequin Property?

Port Vale’s former club sponsors, Harlequin Property, once described as the “best sponsors the club have ever had” have been reported to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), it has been claimed.

According to a report in the Mail on Sunday up to 3,000 Britons “fear financial ruin” after putting £250m into a controversial Caribbean property scheme operated by Harlequin Property.

Arnhim Eustace, the former prime minister of St Vincent, told the Mail on Sunday he had seen a 40-page complaint to the SFO.

“I have been sent a copy of the submission which I understand was sent to the SFO. It is a 40-page document filed on behalf of people who want to get back their money.”

Earlier this year, the financial services authority (FSA) issued an “alert” to investors warning them that Harlequin Properties are not regulated by them and that investors should undertake “thorough due diligence” before considering investing.

The FSA document explains that as Harlequin is not authorised or regulated by it, there is no Government-backed protection scheme.

Harlequin’s owner David Ames strongly denies misleading investors. He told the Mail on Sunday that he has been duped by contractors which are now the subject of legal action and that all the projects will eventually be completed.

Vale connections

Harlequin were brought to Port Vale by then Chairman Bill Bratt and were unveiled as the club’s main sponsor in 2008. In 2009, there were repeated claims by Bratt that Harlequin were poised to invest £500,000 in the club but the claims never came to fruition.

The claims were subject of much scepticism at the time prompting Bratt to complain about reports on a “fans’ website” and to claim that “via a website, the best sponsor this club has ever had is being unfairly maligned.” The proposed investment in Port Vale never materialised.

In 2010, Harlequin agreed a two-year extension to remain the club’s main sponsor.

Legal action

However, the firm’s relationship with Vale ended badly in 2012 when the Sentinel newspaper revealed that Harlequin were sueing Vale over the repayment of a £125,000 to the Valiants, which had reportedly been agreed by Bratt.

At the time, then Vale director Perry Deakin told the newspaper: “We’re in dialogue with Harlequin. I fully expect the matter to be resolved within 14 days.”

Bratt: ‘Same values’

While the firm were Vale’s main sponsors, the Harlequin website contained a glowing testimonial from Bill Bratt which read:

“I am extremely pleased that you share the same values and principles and have a community ethos as we do… may I add that I think that the properties you are selling in Barbados, St Vincent and The Grenadines, St Lucia and the Dominican Republic are excellent value for money and the potential for capital growth on the properties is tremendous.”

Link: Bratt’s testimonial


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