A man who duped more than 8,000 people into investing in luxury Caribbean holiday resorts in a £226 million scam has been found guilty of fraud.

David Ames, 70, formerly of Bluewell Wood, Brock Hill, Wickford, enriched himself and his family to the tune of £6.2 million, paying his wife and son £10,000 a month, while thousands of victims lost their pensions and life savings.

The Serious Fraud Office said he convinced more than 8,000 people to invest in the Harlequin Group - a hotel and resorts development venture based at Honywood Road, Basildon.

The company was endorsed by celebrities and was also backed by politicians.

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Victims believed they had a secure investment in property but with a funding shortfall of £1.2 billion by 2012 - seven years after Ames launched the scheme - investors were exposed to a near 100 per cent risk of loss.

Ames denied two counts of fraud by abuse of position but was found guilty of both charges by a jury at Prospero House Nightingale Court on Wednesday.

Judge Christopher Hehir said: "There will inevitably be a lengthy prison sentence."

Ames did not give evidence and was supported throughout the trial by his wife Carol Ann.

The millionaire couple were declared bankrupt at Southend County Court in December 2018 after 24 creditors made applications to the court.

He faces sentencing next month.

SFO director Lisa Osofsky said: "David Ames committed fraud on a huge scale, knowingly exposing thousands of UK investors to losses totalling hundreds of millions of pounds.

"Diligent SFO investigators reviewed millions of documents, traced over 8,000 investor deposits and called on more than 25 witnesses, to expose the full extent of Ames' deception."