Harlequin Hotels and Resorts offered one of the most tempting, and now one of the most notorious, pension investment schemes of them all. Formed in 2004, Harlequin sold investments in hotel rooms and villas in a number of exotic locations in the Caribbean. Their flagship resort was the ill-fated Buccament Bay in St Vincent, which opened amid great fanfare in 2010 but closed down in 2016.
A huge number of investors were encouraged to get in on the ground floor of a scheme that combined exotic locations, glamorous resorts and of course access to sun-kissed holidays on a regular basis. It all sounded so tempting, and with pension advisors focussing on the benefits and rarely discussing the risks, it became a temptation that for many proved impossible to resist.
Those investors can look back now, with the benefit of hindsight, on a massive mistake. The resorts failed to live up to their promises, in fact some of them didn’t really get off the ground at all. Harlequin took in more than £400 million in investments and the advisors, many of them unregulated and unqualified, made a fortune in commissions.
Instead of looking forward to their regular trips to Barbados, St Lucia, St Vincent or the Cayman Islands, investors are facing an uncertain future after their pension pots or their life savings were all but wiped out. This is a heart-breaking case that really shouldn’t have been allowed to develop, and it’s one that leaves behind a great deal of acrimony.
Investment schemes that promised so much but brought nothing but misery
The scheme has been the subject of an extended investigation by the Serious Fraud Office, and has already seen well over £100 million paid in compensation to the victims. There are a number of other organisations which were involved in this and other similar schemes, including introducers, brokers and agents. They include:Douglas Baillie LtdThe Pension SpecialistStore FirstPark FirstMap Global Property InvestmentsMap Premier LtdMortgage Advice Partnership
In many instances, potential investors were talked into transferring their pension pots into a Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) which is then used to invest in schemes such as the ones run by Harlequin. The glitz and glamour of such an investment will have worn off long ago, with the victims understandably feeling as though they have been completely and utterly duped.
Those investors were in many cases promised high levels of return on their money, but in truth this was a high risk investment scheme that should never have been targeted at ordinary people with little or no knowledge of the factors involved. As the SFO investigation continues, we wait to see whether those who ran the scheme will face criminal proceedings in the courts.
It’s never easy to come to terms with losing a significant sum of money in a scheme that proved to be so disastrous, but it’s so important to start asking questions of those involved. The Harlequin case is an extremely notorious scheme, but it’s worth noting that it’s not the only one. Others involved investment in plantations, alternative energy sources, storage pods and forestry projects.
Here at Beat the Banks, we have helped a number of people seek compensation in cases involving unregulated pension advice. If you were talked into moving your money into a SIPP and investing in schemes that lost money, you should be having a chat with our team at the earliest opportunity.
To find out more about how Beat the Banks might be able to help you, just complete the online contact form or call our friendly and knowledgeable team on 0800 193 1234. We look forward to seeing what we can do.