SOUTH Essex multi-million pound Caribbean investment firm Harlequin Property has applied for its sales arm to go into administration.

The business run by the Ames family from Wickford blames negative publicity on the decision, which it says could still secure clients' investments.  

The firm, which is promoted by big name sports celebrities lodged an intention to appoint administrators for Harlequin Management Services (South East) Limited, of Honywood Road, Basildon, at the High Court in London yesterday.

A statement signed by director Carole Ames, of Brock Hill, Wickford, said: “The company is or is likely to become unable to pay its debts.”

She intends to appoint London accountants Shipleys LLP as administrators.

It has prompted fears over the future of at least 6,000 investor’s deposits, many paid through personal pensions, and around 40 jobs at the Basildon head office.

The company, which is promoted by former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash, golf legend Gary Player and footballer Andy Townsend and trades as Harlequin Property, has taken more than £300million in deposits from at least 6,000 investors for off plan luxury holiday accommodation across the Caribbean since 2006.

However, it has so far built just around 300 of the thousands of properties and is being investigated by Essex Police, the Serious Fraud Office and Financial Services Authority.

The move comes after around 40 investors served statutory demands on the firm for monies owed to them which could have lead to a winding up petition if left unpaid.

Harlequin maintains its Caribbean-registered firms run by the Ames family, which own and plan to build the resorts, will continue.

It said: ‘Due to unfounded negative publicity in the public domain that has been instigated since 2011, the day-to-day UK sales business of Harlequin Property has become increasingly challenging, to the point that it is now almost impossible.

‘The underlying business model of the Harlequin group is strong and the directors are confident that, with the external finance and property completions anticipated, our investors will see significant development at our resorts in the near future.

‘Investors can be assured that the company sees no reason why these circumstances would threaten their investment with Harlequin. In fact, the measures set out above are a means of further securing their investments from external and contrary interests."