Pensions 

Pension fund manager guilty of stealing £1m

Pension fund manager guilty of stealing £1m

A pension fund manager at one of the richest authorities in the UK has been found guilty of stealing nearly £1m from a council employee retirement pot to buy a new house and car.

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

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

He moved the cash into overseas bank accounts and then back into the UK.

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

He has long-standing health issues and was not in the dock today (15 October) as a jury took a little over an hours to unanimously convict him of fraud by abuse of position and concealing criminal property after a seven day trial.

Judge Stephen Robbins adjourned his sentencing until 16 November.

At the start of the trial, the judge had directed the jury to return a not guilty verdict in respect of his wife Tania Woodall, 48, on a single charge of money laundering due to lack of evidence.

Prosecutor Kevin Dent earlier told how Woodall abused his position as pension fund manager for the City of Westminster Council to steal almost £1m.

"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 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 cash as a down payment for his three-bedroom home in Dorking, in March 2011.

Two months later, Woodall transferred £45,000 from one of his Swiss bank accounts for "doing up" the property he still lives in now.

Woodall and his wife Tania also spent £15,000 on a Renault Scenic, the court heard.

Jurors were told how Woodall "cleverly" laundered the money by buying shares in foreign companies.

In March 2010, Woodall bought 45,000 shares in an Australian mining business before selling them a year later.

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