The property arm of a Caribbean resort which recently won more than $11 million in a high court dispute is to be placed in interim receivership.
Harlequin Hotels and Resorts’ Buccament Bay closed its on December 14. A spokesman said fewer than 40 guests were staying at the 195-property resort at the time.
Harlequin Property (SVG) Ltd – the firm in interim receivership – is a separate entity to Buccament Bay Ltd, which manages the St Vincent resort under the Harlequin Hotels and Resorts banner.
Harlequin was awarded the multi-million pound payout by High Court judge Mr Justice Coulson earlier this month. He ruled that Harlequin’s former accountants Wilkins Kennedy failed to advise that Harlequin enter into a contract with builders ICE Group.
In 2013, the High Court commercial division in Dublin awarded Harlequin $2million after finding that Padraig O’Halloran, managing director of ICE Group, had misappropriated funds meant for the construction of Harlequin’s Buccament Bay project. He spent cash on private jets, a St Lucian race course and a £1million wedding.
Harlequin has previously said it plans to expand the resort, which opened in 2010 with less properties than were originally planned, next year.
A Harlequin spokesman told Travel Weekly that going into interim receivership was a means of protecting the firm’s assets until a proposal is put forward to its creditors, many of which have ploughed thousands of pounds of savings into the $400 million project.
He said the process was different under the jurisdiction of St Vincent and the Grenadines than it would be in the UK.
He added: “This is not a receivership rather the appointment of a licensed person to ensure assets (including the cash award in the Wilkins Kennedy claim) are protected until such time that
Harlequin is in a position to agree a proposal with its identified creditors.”
While Buccament Bay remains closed, the Harlequin spokesman said he was confident it would be open again by spring 2017.
“Sadly, within a week of winning the case, where monies will not be paid until earliest end of January, suppliers of the Buccament Bay Resort have already stated their clear intentions by changing agreed payment plans and making unrealistic demands with the threat of disconnecting services,” the spokesman said.
Harlequin Property went into administration back in 2013, and at that time the firm stressed that the hotels and resorts business would be unaffected.
There is also an ongoing Serious Fraud Office investigation into Harlequin. The firm entered insolvency proceedings under St Vincent jurisdiction in October.