Panorama special on Harlequin Properties shelved

The BBC has cancelled an episode of Panorama which was to focus on Port Vale’s former club sponsors, Harlequin Property, after allegations of bribery.

Harlequin have been much in the news recently with the the financial services authority (FSA) issuing 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 Panorama programme was billed in the Radio Times as “an investigation into financial scandals that could wipe out people’s life savings, including a £250 million Caribbean rental-home development scheme”.

However, according to the Huffington Post, the programme was shelved after a BBC producer was accused of trying to bribe a security consultant for information.

It is alleged that the producer offered the consultant work at the BBC in return for information.

In a letter to the BBC’s litigation department, Harlequin said: “On any sensible interpretation, the message to Mr Ghent is simply staggering…. in short, it appears to be tantamount to an attempted bribe.”

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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