Pensions  

Pension scam 'mastermind' banned by regulator

Pension scam 'mastermind' banned by regulator

The "mastermind" behind a £13.7m pension scam has been banned from being a trustee of pension schemes and a company director.

David Austin, alongside Susan Dalton, Alan Barratt and Julian Hanson, ran a scam where 245 people were persuaded through cold-calling and other techniques to transfer their pension savings into one of 11 scam schemes operated by Friendly Pensions Limited (FPL).

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has now banned the four scammers from acting as a pension scheme trustee to protect pension holders.

The Insolvency Service has disqualified Mr Austin from being a company director for 12 years.

In January the scammers were ordered by the High Court to repay the victims.

According to TPR the victims were told that if they transferred their pension pots to the schemes they would receive a tax-free payment commonly described as a "commission rebate" from investments made by the pension scheme.

Mr Austin, the scammers’ leader, laundered funds from the schemes into his bank account and the accounts of family members in the UK, Switzerland and Andorra, through a number of businesses that he had set up in the UK, Cyprus and the Caribbean, including FPL.

Mr Austin and his family derived at least £1.3m of benefit from the scam. Mr Barratt had been paid more than £380,000, Ms Dalton more than £168,000 and Mr Hanson £7,000.

Part of the scam involved £120,000 of scheme funds being moved to a company whose directors included Mr Austin and his daughter, Camilla Austin – who has also been banned from being a company director for four years.

Mr Austin hadn’t been appointed as a trustee of any of the schemes, but the regulator’s determinations panel has ruled TPR should take action as he had been "dishonestly involved in the misuse or misappropriation of scheme assets". 

It added: "The panel concluded that the evidence in relation to Mr Austin’s conduct was so serious, and his involvement in the receiving schemes was so close and influential, as to warrant his prohibition from acting as a trustee of trust schemes in general."

The panel ruled that Ms Dalton, Mr Barratt and Mr Hanson should be banned from being trustees both for their dishonesty but also because of the amounts of money they took from the schemes.

maria.espadinha@ft.com