Chairman of Harlequin Group of companies naturalised Vincentian Dave Ames was on Friday charged with fraud in the United Kingdom, his birthplace, even as he failed — for the fourth time –to turn up in court to answer to financial crimes charges in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Harlequin Group owns the failed Buccament Bay Resort, which closed last December when its electricity was disconnected after its financial woes came to a head after weeks of failing to pay its workers.
On Friday, the UK Serious Fraud Office charged Ames with three counts of Fraud by Abuse of Position, contrary to section 1 of the Fraud Act 2006.
The alleged activity occurred between January 2010 and June 2015.
David Ames, 65, from Wickford, Essex, has been requisitioned to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on March 22, 2017.
The SFO, together with Essex Police, announced it was investigating the Harlequin Group of companies on 5 March 2013.
This investigation continues.
Harlequin investors who invested via a Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) following advice from an Independent Financial Advisor firm that is no longer trading, may be entitled to compensation from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (“FSCS”), the Serious Fraud Office said on its website.
In a statement on Friday, Harlequin expressed disappointed at the SFO’s decision.
“After almost four years of investigations, the Serious Fraud Office has decided to charge David Ames. Although Mr Ames is understandably disappointed that the SFO has come to this decision, it is not a surprise given the time and resources that have been committed to the investigation since 2013. For the avoidance of doubt, Mr Ames maintains that he is innocent of any wrongdoing and looks forward to clearing his name. Mr Ames would like to assure investors that Harlequin is not going anywhere and will continue to protect investors’ interests,” Harlequin said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Ames again failed to turn up at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court in St. Vincent to answer theft and tax evasion charges, the fourth such non-appearance since he was summoned to court last June.
He left St. Vincent on a speedboat after being summoned and his lawyers have told the court that he is not well enough to travel back to St. Vincent for trial.
His counsel, Kay Bacchus-Baptiste gave the court that same explanation when Ames’ case was called before Bertie Pompey at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court on Friday.
Bacchus-Baptiste further told iWitness News that the defence is yet to get full disclosure as ordered by the court.
The Crown has brought eight charges tax evasion and theft charges against Ames and four tax evasion charges against, Samuel Commissiong, another of his lawyers.
Commissiong is lawyer and company secretary for both Buccament Bay Resort Ltd. and Harlequin Property SVG Ltd.
Ames is charged that:
- between Feb. 1 and Dec. 31, 2011, he stole the sum of $397,615 — the property of the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines;
- between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2012, he stole the sum of $886,818.05 — the property of the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines;
- between Feb. 1 and Dec. 31, 2011, he stole the sum of $1,739,524 — the property of the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines
- between Jan. and Dec. 31, 2012, he stole the sum of $404,740.09 — the property of the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines;
- between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2012, he failed to pay the Comptroller of Inland Revenue the amount of $886,818.05 deducted from remuneration paid to employees;
- between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2013, he failed to pay the Comptroller of Inland Revenue the amount of $404,740.09 deducted from remuneration paid to employees;
- between Feb. 1 and Dec. 31, 2011, he willfully evaded the assessment payment or collection of VAT in the amount of $808,405;
- and that between Feb. 1 and Dec. 31, 2012, he willfully evaded the assessment payment or collection of value added tax in the amount of $2,754,132.