Investments  

Ex-Harlequin accountants to fight High Court ruling

Ex-Harlequin accountants to fight High Court ruling

The former accountants of overseas property company Harlequin SVG have lodged an appeal against an $11.6m (£9.15m) ruling for damages.

Wilkins Kennedy is seeking to overturn a ruling handed down in December 2016.

In it Harlequin won part of its case against Wilkins Kennedy, in a dispute that the accountancy firm was involved in a conflict of interest with a property developer hired by Harlequin.

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The High Court ruled Wilkins Kennedy was partly responsible for losses arising from overpayments to the builder, ICE, a company the accountancy firm was also acting for at the same time as acting for Harlequin.

Wilkins Kennedy was retained by Harlequin between 2006 and 2010 to provide financial and business advice focused on helping to build and create the investment scheme’s flagship Buccament Bay Resort in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The legal challenge is the latest problem facing Harlequin.

Six thousand mainly UK pension investors ploughed around £400m into the unregulated overseas property scheme via financial advisers, hoping for ‘guaranteed returns’ of 10 per cent a year.

In October, David Ames, chairman of the Harlequin group, declared the company which owns the land associated with the scheme, Harlequin Property SVG, insolvent in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, where the company is based.

In December it entered interim receivership, and the flagship Buccament Bay resort was closed after its electricity was disconnected.

Mr Ames’ company signed contracts with around 6,000 investors to build luxury villas in the Caribbean and other exotic locations.

But it completed just a few hundred, leaving most investors without either their capital or any of the ‘guaranteed returns’.

Harlequin has faced trouble since early 2013, has been the subject of several warnings from the Financial Conduct Authority, and is mired in a Serious Fraud Office investigation.

Harlequin and Wilkins Kennedy have been approached for comment.

laura.miller@ft.com