The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) today charged David Ames, chairman of the Harlequin Group of companies, with three counts of fraud by abuse of position, contrary to section one of the Fraud Act 2006.
It followed a four-year investigation by the SFO, with Essex Police, into the group of companies.
The Harlequin Property scheme had endorsements from celebrities including former Wimbledon winner Pat Cash, golf legend Gary Player, football pundit Andy Townsend, TV property guru Phil Spender, and Liverpool Football Club.
Off-plan properties are those that are purchased by an investor before they have been developed or completed.
Ames, 65, a former double-glazing salesman from Wickford, Essex, began selling the properties at planned resorts across St Vincent, St Lucia, and Barbados, but many were never built, it is claimed by the SFO.
Resorts were endorsed or advertised by a number of celebrities, including Cash who put his name to a tennis academy at the flagship Buccament Bay resort in St Vincent, which was partially built.
Pat Cash (left) and Phil Spencer (middle) promoted Harlequin Property run by David Ames (right)
Others included Player, who put his name to a planned golf course at the proposed Marquis Estate in St Lucia.
Mr Spencer said he had invested in one of the firm's properties during a promotional video he filmed for the business, and football player turned pundit Townsend was at one time the face of Harlequin Property on its website.
Liverpool Football club also puts its name to planned football academies across the resorts.
There is no suggestions that the football club or any of the celebrities who endorsed or promoted the business have been involved in any wrongdoing.
Phil Spencer gets a massage at Harlequin Property's Buccament Bay resort in a promotional video.
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The business activity of the Harlequin Group includes the marketing, sale and construction of luxury off-plan property developments in the Caribbean and other resort locations.
The SFO says the alleged activity occurred between January 2010 and June 2015, and, despite the charges being brought, the investigation continues, it said.
Ames is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in March.
More than 6,000 units are believed to have been bought, with many people using Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs) or life savings for the investments.
An SFO spokesman said: "The business activity of the Harlequin Group includes the marketing, sale and construction of luxury off-plan property developments in the Caribbean and other resort locations.
Andy Townsend (right) with David Ames.
Gary Player left talks with David Ames about a planned golf course in a promotional video.
"The SFO would like to thank investors who completed a questionnaire.
"Investors who made investments during the period of January 2010 to June 2015 can register their details with the SFO at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Investors may wish to contact their financial advisors and/or seek independent legal advice if they are concerned about their investment."
Express.co.uk has contacted Mr Cash, Mr Player, Mr Townsend and Mr Spencer through their agents and the football club and awaits responses.
If you invested in Harlequin Property contact reporter Jon Austin at email@example.com.