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Harlequin Hotels halts operations in Barbados

Harlequin Hotels halts operations in Barbados

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Tue Apr 9, 2013

by Maria Bradshaw

HARLEQUIN Hotels and Resorts has halted operations in Barbados owing employees two months’ salary, the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) about $80,000 and several local businesses and contractors in excess of $3 million.{{more}}

The Britain-based company, which has been the subject of legal troubles abroad, has also moved out of its offices in Hastings, Christ Church, Barbados and the majority of its senior managers have packed up and left.

Its two multi-million dollar resorts in Barbados – Merricks in St Philip and H Barbados in Hastings, Christ Church – which were booming with construction activity just six months ago, are now deserted.

Harlequin is also the developer of the Buccament Bay Resort in St Vincent.

In a statement to the SUNDAY SUN yesterday from its British office, Harlequin said it was in the process of restructuring elements of its business.

“As a result a number of staff have been laid off and the H Barbados site has been closed on a temporary basis while this occurs. Harlequin is communicating closely with sub-contractors engaged on H and Merricks and hope to see them back at work again soon.”

The company, which is owned by British businessman David Ames, also announced it had received full planning permission for the Merricks project from the Town and Country Planning Department.

“There are several normal conditions attached to the permission which our team will be working on to ensure we have full compliance to allow us to commence works,” the statement said.

However, Harlequin did not address any questions posed by the SUNDAY SUN about the long trail of debt.

A reliable source said that after the company slowed down its operations at the two construction sites in December, it held a staff meeting in January and reported having financial issues and that payments were not being honoured by its office in Britain, so it would have to cease operations until its huge debt to local suppliers and contractors was cleared.

The company retained a few staff members, but by March, they had also not been paid for January or February. They were given papers to take to the National Insurance Office indicating that the company would be closed until June for restructuring.

“The employees have now discovered that no NIS nor income tax had been paid by Harlequin on their behalf for the past six months,” the source said, pointing out that the company subsequently moved out of its office in Hastings, sold the equipment and furniture in order to pay staff some of the money owed, and has moved into a smaller office.

The source added that all of the top level directors who were working in Barbados had also moved back to Britain.

“The only senior official here is development director David Campion, but he has also resigned and is said to be only staying on to prepare paperwork for the company. We don’t know who to speak to regarding our money.

We are sending emails to the UK and calling the office but we are not getting any replies,” the source reported.

The source said that one major construction company which worked for H Barbados was owed close to $1 million, while another one which had done work at the Merricks site was owed $500 000.

When contacted yesterday, Mark Maloney, of Preconco Ltd, one of the companies said to be owed substantial sums by Harlequin, remarked:

“Out of respect for our client, we have no comments to make at this stage. They have committed to pay us the money which they owe us.”

Harlequin’s operations here have been struck by a string of bad luck since 2007 when it first announced it was constructing Merricks Resort.

Several British investors who purchased the off-plan units publicly voiced concern when construction did not begin. Then the company became involved in a multimillion dollar lawsuit against one of its former directors, Paudraig O’Halloran, for alleged misappropriation of US$13.5 million. Recently, there were reports that Harlequin was under investigation by the Financial Services Authority in Britain and could face a freeze of its assets. (Sunday Sun)

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