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SFO and police examine Harlequin complaints

by Brian Cantwell on Mar 06, 2013 at 09:03

SFO and police examine Harlequin complaints

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and Essex police are looking into complaints made about the Harlequin group.

The SFO said: 'The business activity of the Harlequin group includes the marketing, sale and construction of luxury off-plan property developments in the Caribbean and other resort locations.'

'If you have invested in Harlequin schemes, we would welcome any information you can give us.'

The SFO said it was interested in hearing from people who invested in the following resorts

  • Buccament Bay in St Vincent & the Grenadines
  • Merricks in Barbados
  • Marquis estate in St Lucia
  • The Hideaway, Las Canas and Two Rivers resorts in the Dominican Republic
  • Garapua beach resort in Brazil. 

The SFO has issued a questionnaire for investors. 'Your answers will help us to understand the general nature of your evidence,' it said. 

'We may then contact you to obtain a full witness statement for potential use in a criminal prosecution.'

Last week New Model Adviser® reported that the FSA had contacted Sipp providers to request information about holdings in Harlequin.

14 comments so far. Why not have your say?

Arthur Schopenhauer

Mar 06, 2013 at 09:12

where do we send the information try going to a property exhibition in Birmingham for a start I think it is call "A Shed in the Sun" or something like that

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From yet another cynic

Mar 06, 2013 at 09:37

Based on past experience, even if a crime has been committed, I expect the victims to be told that it is either too complicated or too expensive to prosecute anyone.

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Jonathan Kirby

Mar 06, 2013 at 10:05

I bet a lot of FSA staff suddenly find it imperative to travel out to the Caribbean to investigate at our expense.

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James Marchant

Mar 06, 2013 at 10:56

Yippee... I can't wait until the next FSCS levy... not!!!

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Philip Stevenson

Mar 06, 2013 at 11:18

Anyone who advised their clients to get involved in this is a complete and utter n**. My problem is that now I will pay the price in terms of a bumper FSCS levy on the way. Of course there will be the usual wailing of IFA's pleading it wasn't their fault and if only the FSA had regulated the investments none of this would have happened. But they didn't and they won't and until you learn to do your job properly the survivors keep picking up the tab. Please just diappear and leave the industry....

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James Marchant

Mar 06, 2013 at 11:34

Well said Philip

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Peter J.

Mar 06, 2013 at 13:03

I hear that offshore "IFAs" were marketing these extensively too. Wonder how many of them worked with a UK SIPP provider to persuade expat investors to invest in Harlequin?

Of course, being outside of the UK, the FSA can do nothing about them but the UK pensions and IFA community will be left to clear up all the flak.

The fact the FSA is writing to SIPP providers about this now should be seen as a very loud alarm for something that is about to explode here. I cannot see this ending well for anyone!

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Confused

Mar 06, 2013 at 14:05

Trustees have a duty of care, they are the legal owners. If a SIPP provider has been so negligent in their duties as to allow something like this with upwards of 15-20% commission through then I would say it is about time SIPP providers pay up.

I know of people who remortgaged their houses to invest in this. It is dumb, I know, but that is why we have regulated advisers who should act with due care for their clients' wellbeing.

...I'm torn...

The end client is not absolved from repsonsibility but the adviser/trustees are the 'professionals' here and they should be made to pay.

I don't see that this is a FSCS issue - nothing to do with a regulated product. Surely this is a criminal or civil mater?

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the elephant in the room

Mar 06, 2013 at 14:37

Well Citywire, I appear to have said something contentious as you have removed my comment!

Was it the mention of Harlequin's lawyers - did you get a call or something?

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Zoomer

Mar 06, 2013 at 14:46

Confused

Many SIPP providers would not be aware of the commission terms as this is rarely disclosed and is an agreement between the adviser and the investment company, nothing to do with the SIPP.

As for Trustees / Providers being responsible - most sensible providers will check that an investment does not breach HMRC guidlines.

Investment suitability lies squarely with the adviser / client.

If you are suggesting that the SIPP Provider should be carrying out the same due diligence as the IFA should have then either fees will increase significantly for esoteric investments or providers will flatly refuse to allow them.

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l'ifa passeport en provenance de France

Mar 06, 2013 at 15:16

Next Stirling mortimer ??

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Mark Cooper

Mar 06, 2013 at 15:49

Any person who was a knowing conduit to this lunacy should be struck-off for good.

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Dan Woodruff

Mar 06, 2013 at 16:18

The trouble is that this particular scheme was promoted by lots of unregulated commission-based individuals, who seemed free to make any claims they pleased. They did rope in some IFAs locally to facilitate this through SIPPs (who should have known better). A lot of people, who can't afford to, are going to lose a lot of money.

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Bob Donaldson

Mar 06, 2013 at 16:36

Whilst the scheme does appear lunacy now and probably did at the time it was being promoted, clients just love those esoteric investments that they can drop into the conversation at the golf club. 'My SIPP is invested in property in Jamaica, my advisor has put me into something that is giving a guaranteed 10% per annum - even if the island disappears in a Tsunami!

Clients need protecting from their own ineptitude regardless of whether it is some gung ho investment scheme or piling all their money into Jupiter Merlin Income Portfolio! (apologies to Jupiter in advance).

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