Plans to help Harlequin investors 'brushed off', court hears

Plans to help Harlequin investors 'brushed off', court hears
David Ames appearing at court (Photo via Central News)

Plans to rescue the life savings of thousands of investors caught up in a £226mn swindle were "brushed off" by an alleged fraudster, a court has heard.

David Ames, 70, is accused of three counts of fraud by abuse of position as the company director of Harlequin Management Services South East Limited.

The former boss allegedly encouraged investors to purchase overseas properties in the Caribbean before they were built and then failed to give them anything in return.

Prosecutors claim he persuaded the investors to sign contracts without revealing the true state of affairs at the company, causing a total loss of £226mn.

Investors poured hundreds of millions into unbuilt Caribbean properties of "eye-wateringly low" value, Prospero House's Nightingale Court has heard.

Thousands lost their life savings and pensions between 2006 and 2015, jurors heard.

Michael Slade, a former HMSSE employee who worked in procurement, told the trial when the company attempted to arrange funding for investors that Ames had "no appetite for even pursuing the process".

He said: "Funding wasn’t available, the opportunity to progress the process was available."

Slade said he warned Ames that many investors would not be able to fund the property developments without mortgage facilities and planning.

"That brushing off put the project off the table. You can’t pursue the project if you don’t have the finance."

He said Ames was planning the ‘restructuring’ of the ownership of HMSSE which may have been an attempt to arrange finances for investors.

Slade said: "Ames was seeking to achieve something along the lines of a restructuring of the ownership, but only provided that he retained ownership."

Earlier, Slade described Ames' lack of clarity about ownership of 'some property' in Dubai, stating: "He said he bailed out investors who bought Dubai property, I didn’t know who these investors were.

"There were a dozen properties there and money from the client account had been applied to these properties.

"I pressed David about Harlequin’s activity in Dubai and Ames said they were his properties.

"There would have been a problem if they had been paid for by money coming in from investors."

Ames bought the properties in Dubai using his dividends from investments thus far but Slade claimed the dividends were yet to be paid.

Slade also told the court: "I was dismayed because it was apparent that it was investor money. I left the company before I could take it further."

Ames, of Essex, denies three counts of fraud by abuse of position.