The beautiful island of Malta is home to many holiday homes, timeshares and celebrities. Gary Neville fell in love with the island and bought a home there in 2000 and in 2001 he was appointed a tourism ambassador for Malta. In addition to this in 2009 he and friend Ryan Giggs each invested €1.1 million in Island Hotels Group Holdings, Neville becoming a non-executive director of the Company.
Island Hotels Group owned 50% of the Golden Sands resort a prestigious Radisson Blu franchise and 50% of Azure Services Ltd which marketed the timeshares. Azure Services Ltd have now been found under British Law to have been operating without authorisation as a financial broker between April 2014 and April 2016,
Promotional leaflets issued by Island Hotels stated, “the high profile of each of the investors, from sporting backgrounds, is calculated to enhance the group´s overall public relations image and profile”. Customers have claimed that “sales staff”, employed by the unlicenced Azure Services Ltd, highlighted Radissons and the footballer’s links, in order to raise their credibility whilst closing their deals by mis selling loan agreements provided by Barclays Partner Finance (BPF).
The Golden Sands resort is now at the centre of an investigation into the 1444 loan agreements sold to clients by an unauthorised entity. Azure Services Ltd were not authorised as a licence broker and should not have arranged or introduced clients to BPF. Apparently BPF only became aware of the issue recently and so applied to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to have these loans “made legal”. The FCA issued the validation order, but consequently the 1444 customers appealed, claiming that the loans were mis sold to them and they have forced the FCA to apply to the Royal Courts of Justice for a hearing with a view to over turning the validation order. If this is successful it could possibly cost BPF £47 million.
On the 1 August 2018 Judge Timothy Herrington issued his judgement in which he said that the FCA had acted unlawfully in giving the validation order and he ruled that the FCA did not consider the evidence of “Potential Customer Detriment”.
The Upper Tribunal of the Tax and Chancery heard complaints from customers including:
v False representations made to the customers regarding the financial impact
of regulated agreements
v Customers felt pressured into signing agreements after long presentations using questionable sales tactics
v The length of the loan agreements was not fully explained, most believing they would last 2 years, coincidentally the same length of time the sales staff told clients it would take for their purchases to resell.
v No credit checks were carried out as to affordability, income versus outgoings.
With this ruling it makes it almost impossible for the FCA to uphold the original validation order. The FCA is now to examine claims as to whether the mis-sold loans can be enforced by BPF. If the ruling is overturned, they must rule that they cannot be validated and therefore unenforceable in law. This would mean the 1444 clients would be entitled to be refunded plus all interest paid.
Once the FCA issues the cancellation this will no doubt effect other timeshare companies who have used BPF, even if the company is authorised as a broker, the many client detriment issues may make it possible for any loan to be contested.
No doubt Silverpoint clients who entered into investment schemes through BPF will be watching the outcome of this very closely. However, at present it is not known how long it will take for the FCA to issue their findings.