Harlequin, the property investment group engaged in the development of luxury overseas resorts, has won a court case against a former contractor it said had misappropriated money meant for property development.
Padraig O'Halloran, a former ICE Group contractor, misused about £8.5m of some £32.5m sent by Harlequin for the development of its Buccament Bay Resort in St Vincent and the Grenadines, the High Court in Ireland heard.
The millions diverted helped fund a wedding, purchase a private jet and acquire a racecourse in St Lucia, Harlequin said.
The cash was supposed to be used to fund construction work, but the court heard that the development, though made to look as though there had been progress, was missing vital resources such as sewage, water and power. As a result, the resort opened later than originally planned and on a smaller scale.
A spokesman for Harlequin said: "We are delighted with the Court's decision and grateful that this unfortunate episode is behind the company. This case has taken up so much of our time over the last three years and we are now able to focus on moving the business forward." Harlequin said it was still attempting to trace some of the funds misappropriated by O'Halloran.
Thousands of investors have put some £200m into the Harlequin group of companies.
Last month, the FCA warned investors considering paying money to any of the companies in the Harlequin group "to do so with caution".
In its second ‘alert' relating to Harlequin, it said investors should ensure they fully understand the risks involved with the investment. It also recommended they contact a financial adviser and obtain legal advice from lawyers in the country where the property is located before proceeding.
The Harlequin group has been beset by difficulties this year.
On 5 March, the Serious Fraud Office announced it, together with Essex Police, was looking into complaints in relation to the group. The following month, Harlequin Property filed to enter administration. On 3 May, Anthony Peter Davidson and Stephen Blandford Ryman, of Shipleys LLP, were appointed joint administrators of Harlequin Property.
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