The chairman of luxury Caribbean hotel and resort developer Harlequin Group was found guilty on Wednesday of defrauding 226 million pounds ($274 million) from more than 8,000 investors in Britain . David Ames was found guilty by a jury at London’s Southwark Crown Court of two counts of fraud by abuse of position, Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said in a statement, adding that it had only provided no evidence for his defence.
The SFO told Reuters that Ames pleaded not guilty to charges against him in 2017. The 70-year-old Briton, whose lawyer was not immediately available for comment, will be sentenced on September 22. Investors have paid a 30% down payment to buy an unbuilt villa or hotel room in places including the Dominican Republic, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the SFO said. . Half went to Harlequin’s and vendors’ fees, while Harlequin spent the remaining 15% on construction.
The scheme has grown exponentially and money from investors has been diverted between resorts, the SFO said. But in 2012 the company faced a £1.2 billion funding shortfall, he added. Harlequin went into administration in 2013 and more than 99% of investors, some of whom had invested retirement savings and life savings to fund deposits, received no return.
The SFO said Ames made £6.2million from the projects, adding that he repeatedly ignored warnings that the business was likely insolvent and fired associates who sounded the alarm. Nearly 400 million pounds of investor funds were lost between 2005 and 2013, the SFO said, although its indictment period only covers losses from 2010 to 2013. ($1 = 0.8256 pounds)
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