The Financial Conduct Authority has issued a warning to investors considering paying money to unregulated overseas property firm Harlequin group and its associated companies.
The regulator has published its latest alert about Harlequin after Harlequin Hotels & Resorts approached investors last month about funding the oustanding balance on built properties in the Buccament Bay resort in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Under the terms of the investment, investors paid an initial 30 per cent deposit and were due to pay the remainder once the properties were built.
Harlequin Hotels & Resorts told investors on 13 May that Harlequin’s St Vincent and the Grenadines subsidiary Harlequin Property (SVG) was working with Sipp and Ssas providers on the completion of built Buccament Bay properties. It invited investors who could fund the outstanding balance on their investments, or who wanted to relocate their investments from another Harlequin resort, to contact Harlequin Hotels & Resorts.
In its investor alert, published today, the FCA stresses that Harlequin Property (SVG) is not regulated by the FCA and is not incorporated in the UK.
The FCA says: “If you are considering investing in the Harlequin group, we urge you to proceed with caution. Ensure that you fully understand the risks involved with the investment. We recommend you contact an appropriately qualified financial adviser and obtain legal advice from lawyers in the country where the property is located before proceeding with an investment in a company in the Harlequin group.”
The regulator first issued an alert to advisers about UK sales arm Harlequin Property in January, saying it had seen an increasing number of Sipps with underlying property investments bought through the company.
In March the Serious Fraud Office announced it had begun an investigation into Harlequin Property, and asked investors to complete an online questionnaire if they had invested in Harlequin’s resorts in the Caribbean and elsewhere.
Harlequin Property, the trading name of Harlequin Management Services (South East), filed for administration in April, with Shipleys appointed as administrators in May.
In a statement, a Harlequin spokesman says: “Harlequin is currently seeking completions from existing investors on over 100 completed villas, which form part of its Buccament Bay resort. The FCA statement is similar to its previous alert, and is merely common sense advice urging consideration, as would be expected with any investment. Harlequin has always urged investors to seek independent advice and agents/IFAs to carry out proper due diligence.”