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Pension fund manager put on suicide watch

Pension fund manager put on suicide watch

A pension fund manager has been put on suicide watch after being jailed for seven years for stealing £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.

Judge Stephen Robbins told him: "You know the time has come when you must be sentenced for this appalling conduct, your dishonesty.

"You occupied a position of trust. This was a persistent abuse of that trust that you were occupying as financial officer in charge of the Westminster Council pension fund.

"You mis-appropriated in the order of £1m and then went to great lengths to salt that money away in Swiss and other bank accounts.

"You spent much of that money on yourself, for instance in regards to the property in Surrey."

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 said: "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.

"They would not have known that, in fact, the monies were going to companies held by him and were then going to be diverted into his own accounts.

"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.

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