Insights / News

Michael Bowes QC successful in Harlequin overseas investment fraud prosecution

Michael Bowes QC led the SFO team in its successful prosecution of David Ames, Chairman of Harlequin, who defrauded investors of £226 million in relation to overseas property investments.

On 3 August 2022, David Ames was found guilty of two counts of fraud by abuse of position. An SFO (Serious Fraud Office) investigation uncovered how Ames deceived over 8,000 UK investors in the Harlequin Group, a hotel, and resorts development venture. Victims were led to believe they had a secure investment in property whereas, in reality, Harlequin Group was never operating as promised.

The business model relied upon investors paying a 30 percent deposit to purchase an unbuilt villa or hotel room, half of which went toward fees for Harlequin and relevant salespeople, while Harlequin put the remaining 15 percent toward construction. Investors were fraudulently told that the building of the properties would be further funded by external financial backing.

With no additional source of funding, three properties needed to be purchased to finance just one of the luxury accommodation units. This led to the exponential expansion of the scheme, the diversion of investor money between resorts, and ultimately a funding shortfall of over £1.2 billion by 2012 – seven years after Ames launched the scheme. By this point, an expert accountant told Southwark Crown Court that investors were exposed to a near 100 percent risk of loss.

The sentence has been adjourned until September 2022.

This case has been widely reported. Read more on the SFO website and the FT Advisor website to find out more about this case.

Find out more

Michael Bowes QC is highly regarded as an expert in civil and criminal “cross-over” work. He is described as “…one of the go-to barristers in England for a corporate crisis.

Michael is a Deputy High Court Judge (Queen’s Bench Division) and a Recorder. He was elected as a Bencher of Middle Temple in 2007.

Michael specialises in business crime, civil fraud, financial services and international sanctions. He acts for corporate clients and senior managers in global investigations and for the SFO, FCA, CMA and Lloyd’s of London.

He is registered in the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC) Courts. He is a trustee of Transparency International UK and a co-chair of the UK Chapter of the International Section of the New York State Bar Association. He is a co-author of the Practitioner’s Guide to Global Investigations (GIR, 3rd ed.2019).

Business Crime, News 5 Aug, 2022

Portfolio Builder

Select the expertise that you would like to download or add to the portfolio

Download    Add to portfolio   
Title Type CV Email

Remove All


Click here to share this shortlist.
(It will expire after 30 days.)