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Harlequin chairman’s son jailed for 3 years for £1.6m fraud

The son of overseas property firm Harlequin’s chairman David Ames has been sentenced to more than three years in prison for carrying out a £1.6m Ponzi scheme fraud.

Matthew Ames was last week sentenced at Isleworth County Court to three years and four months in jail after setting up bogus carbon credit and teak tree investment schemes.

Following a two-year investigation by the City of London Police, he was convicted of two counts of fraudulent trading.

Between 2008 and 2010, Ames targeted investors through his companies The Investor Club and Forestry for Life with the promise of high percentage and long-term returns on what were marketed as ethical enterprises.

However, no evidence was ever found by detectives that any land or trees had been purchased overseas or capital invested in the carbon credit markets.

Ames was in fact using investors’ money to cover company expenses and fund his extravagant lifestyle, including a Lamborghini and holidays in the Caribbean.

Investors lost as much as £120,000 each through the schemes.

To create the impression of success, funds taken from later investors were used to pay out around £100,000 to early investors.

But by late 2010 investors were finding it increasingly difficult to contact Ames and in early 2011, following an FSA probe, Forestry for Life and The Investor Club were put into liquidation.

Detective constable Simon Cordell, who led the investigation, said: “Ames created a Ponzi fraud to play on peoples’ conscience as well as their want to make their savings work for them, using trees and carbon credits to create a supposedly ethical investment scheme.

“Unfortunately it was all a pack of lies so he could live the high life at others’ expense, with no remorse shown for the damage caused to his victims’ futures. I have little doubt that if we had not got to him when we did many more investors would have fallen into the same trap under a different company name.”

The fraud is not thought to be connected to collapsed overseas property firm Harlequin Property, run by David Ames. Harlequin filed for administration last April, after the Serious Fraud Office began an investigation into the firm in March. In its latest case update in January, the SFO said its investigations into Harlequin are ongoing. 

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  1. Still, over half a million quid a year for a three year stretch, not bad really?

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