Pension fund manager accused of stealing £1m to buy house

Pension fund manager accused of stealing £1m to buy house

A pension fund manager at one of the richest authorities in the UK stole almost £1m from a council employee retirement pot to buy a new house and car, a court has heard today (4 October).

Ian Woodall, 47, tricked colleagues into signing off payments from the £1bn pension fund by disguising them as investments, jurors heard.

Woodall allegedly siphoned off £924,841 from Westminster City Council, between 2009 and 2012, while employed as the pension fund manager.

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He is said to have moved the cash into overseas bank accounts and then back into the UK.

Woodall is said to have used the money to buy cars, pay off tax bills and to refurbish his new home, Southwark crown court heard.

Prosecutor Kevin Dent said: "In total, almost £1m was taken by Ian Woodall, who we say abused his position as pension fund manager for the City of Westminster Council to take that money.

"He diverted those funds through Swiss bank accounts in both his personal and company details back to the UK, where it was dissipated through his personal and company bank accounts.

"Once there it was used to fund the purchase of his house, car and to support his lifestyle.

"Although the transactions in question in this case were signed for or 'authorised' by others, they would have taken Mr Woodall very largely on trust.

"Monies were carefully hidden and then most of the monies came back into the UK to be used by him and his wife.

"We suggest quite a clever and sophisticated operation being run by Mr Woodall."

Woodall had worked for Westminster City Council since 2003 and held the post of interim chief investment officer for several years.

One of his roles was to invest cash from the council employees' pension fund, the court heard.

Woodall allegedly stole cash from the Super Annuation Fund, which provides council employees, like street cleaners and traffic wardens, with a pension after retirement.

He used £100,000 of the money as a down payment on his new home as well as using funds for building work, a new car and the running of his various companies; including salaries and HMRC tax bills, jurors were told.

The alleged fraud came to light in September 2013 when an audit into the council discovered almost £1m had been 'unlawfully removed.'

Four suspicious transactions, ranging from £22,000 to £741,000, between April and September were initially found.

Woodall claimed in a 'fact-finding' interview with auditors that he 'could not recall them.'

Unable to find any records, or any original documentation, the council reported the matter to police.

Further investigations revealed that Woodall made a total of nine transfers to bank accounts in the UK, Seychelles and Switzerland.

Woodall disguised the accounts with professional names, like Aureus Equity AG, the court heard.

"All of the stolen funds are channelled by Mr Woodall through his various accounts, for which he is the sole signatory," Mr Dent said.

Mr Dent told jurors this was a way to launder the money through the process of 'layering'.