A SOUTH Essex-based Caribbean luxury resort developer hit by delays has confirmed it will pay back some investors.

Harlequin Property, based in Honywood Road, Basildon, says it will return any cash they are entitled to.

Nine investors are involved in court claims filed against Harlequin at the East Caribbean Supreme Court to get back deposits and compensation plus damages for alleged misrepresentation by the firm.

It comes as the Echo can reveal the business has been probed by the UK finance watchdog the Financial Services Authority.

Carter Ruck solicitor Adam Tudor added: "I confirm that Harlequin is disputing a number of claims brought by purchasers in the Caribbean but it is only doing so in relation to those who are seeking more than they are entitled to claim under the terms of their purchase contract.

Harlequin has happily repaid a number of purchasers but is not prepared to pay sums that are not owed.” It said a recent decision of the High Court of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines concluded certain claims were not enforceable and this followed in a number of other cases.

He added: “On the back of this, Harlequin is now repeating the proposals that had previously been made to the purchasers, directly to the solicitors instructed on these cases in the hope that the matters can be concluded amicably. The number of individuals who have sought to cancel their contracts and seek repayment amounts to a tiny proportion of investors."

In April the Echo revealed Harlequin had sold around 6,000 offplan properties across six Caribbean resorts and one in Brazil, but so far built around 300 at Buccament Bay in St Vincent.

Some investors asked for refunds, but in some cases were told up to a third of their deposit would not be repaid because it has been spent on commissions to sales agents and would be paid back over one to two years.

Around 30 investors have contacted the Echo, most with concerns about delays, but some were happy with their investment.

Harlequin stressed only a “tiny proportion” of investors have asked for money back. The firm has also been unable to arrange borrowing to develop all its resorts or to provide loans to investors to complete their purchases.

Meanwhile, Harlequin confirmed its business has been probed by the UK finance watchdog.

The firm says it fully cooperated with inquiries made by the Financial Services Authority and that the regulator was “satisfied” with information it provided.

Mr Tudor said: "For the record, the only contact that my clients have had with the FSA was in mid 2010. Harlequin liased fully with the FSA, which was satisfied with the information that was provided.”

The FSA, which polices the financial industry, refused to comment on this.

However, details of reviews it “carried out reviews into the activities of Harlequin” were disclosed to the Echo in a Freedom of Information Act response from the regulator.

It refused to say what the reviews centred around, how many were carried out, if they were ongoing, any outcomes or on Carter Ruck’s statement about it being satisfied.

Harlequin is not authorized and regulated by the FSA, meaning there is no Government-backed protection for UK investors.

The watchdog will sometimes look into unregulated investments if it believes they may be carrying out business which should be regulated.