A SOUTH Essex businessman accused of bribing the Prime Minister of St Vincent in order to gain citizenship has vehmently denied the claims.

Dave Ames, 60, of Brock Hill, Wickford, hit out at accusations he had offered PM Dr Ralph Gonsalves a “suitcase of money” in return for citizenship in the country where his firm is developing a luxury resort.

Mr Ames issued the strongly worded statement yesterday in his role as boss of Harliquin Property, based in Honywood Road, Basildon.

Mr Ames, who has been granted St Vincent citizenship, has faced accusations in the Caribbean and at home about the firm, which has sold 6,000 off-plan holiday homes and villas since 2005, but has only built 300. This includes homes at Buccament Bay in St Vincent.

Some investors are worried whether their homes will ever be built and if they will be able to get their money back.

Mr Ames, who’s firm has taken an estimated £300million in deposits, hit out after learning the BBC has picked up on Echo coverage of Harlequin and sent reporters to the Caribbean.

The statement said: “The BBC has accused the Prime Minister of St Vincent Dr Ralph Gonsalves of accepting from me a suitcase of money in order to receive my citizenship. This is an outrageous lie.

“Sam Commissiong, my solicitor in St Vincent, has attended each and every meeting I have had with the Prime Minister and will confirm the allegation is completely false.”

Mr Gonsalves has visited Buccament Bay to meet Mr Ames on a number of occasions, and last summer pledged his support to the resort due to its importance to the local economy.

He also held a summit for Caribbean prime ministers there last year when he praised the resort.

Mr Gonsalves also defended Harlequin when opposition leader Arhnim Eustace raised questions about it paying staff on time last July. The statement from Mr Ames added: “Harlequin remains strong and continues to fight those who