SOUTH Essex investors in beleagured Caribbean investment firm Harlequin Property have told of fears they could lose tens of thousands of pounds after its sales division filed for administration.
People who invested in dream properties at planned luxury holiday resorts also fear they could lose their homes after Harlequin stopped paying the interest on remortgages to fund their deposits which it agreed to as part of the deal.
This week the Echo revealed Harlequin has applied to place its marketing company based at Honywood Road, Basildon, into administration.
Harlequin has taken more than £300million in deposits for at least 6,000 properties across six Caribbean resorts, but only built around 300 at Buccament Bay in St Vincent.
Gary Anderson, 50, from Winnifred Road, Pitsea, fears he has lost £105,000 he put towards an offplan three-bedroom villa in the Dominican Republic in 2007 which has yet to be built.
He remortgaged a second home he owns on the Felmores estate to fund the deposit for the £350,000 property at a planned luxury resort called Two Rivers with Harlequin paying the loan interest until it was built.
He said: “It was supposed to be finished by December 2010, but they haven’t even started work on it.
I am checking with the bank to see if Harlequin has stopped paying the interest which is £550 a month. If they have I could go into arrears on the mortgage. I am lucky it is not on my main home.”
He has not worked for two years after suffering a brain annurism and is looking for work.
He added: “I only agreed to the investment because Harlequin promised to fund the loan until it was built.
When I realised it was snot going to be built by 2010 because they hadn’t started I tried to withdraw, but they said it would cost me 30 per cent of my deposit, because they had been paying the interest, so it would have cost me thousands, but now I have probably lost the lot.
At the time a friend told me it was too good to be true, but I ignored the advice. I had this big spiel at the offices and was invited to all the launch parties where they had big sports stars.
There were big models of the resorts at the office in Basildon.”
A couple from Bowers Gifford, who did not want to be named due to embarrassment over the decision to invest, fear they will lose their home, which they also remortgaged to fund their deposit for an unbuilt property.
The woman, aged in her 30s, who has a two-year-old daughter, said: “We paid a £50,000 deposit five or six years ago for a studio apartment at Buccament Bay.
They have paid the £200 to £300 interest each month, but it stopped in December. We can just about afford it but it is money we needed for household stuff.
My husband is a self-employed builder, so if he has a few bad months we could slip into arrears and lose out home it is a massive worry.
We were relying on the investment for our pension and have nothing else sorted, so are beginning to resign ourselves to losing all this money.”
The couple have taken legal advice and contacted the Serious Fraud Office which is investigating the Harlequin scheme with Essex Police.