A former adviser convicted of pocketing clients' money has lost his appeal to overturn a six-year jail sentence.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal brought by ex-adviser Darren Say, which challenged his 2017 conviction for fraud by abuse of position and fraudulent trading.
The court said it was not persuaded that the sentence of six years' imprisonment was “manifestly excessive or in any way wrong in principle”.
It stated: “The judge had presided over the trial and was best placed to assess culpability and harm. There were three separate factors indicating higher culpability.
"Furthermore, the dishonest way in which the appellant was running Noisnep Ltd, demonstrated by the separate conviction for fraudulent trading, was reflected in the total sentence of six years.
“The judge made clear his view of the way in which the appellant had abused his sole directorship of the company.”
In 2017, Say was handed a six-year sentence after spending clients’ self-invested personal pension investments on his own lifestyle, as well as pocketing the tax relief which should have ben applied.
In a judgment, published yesterday (April 13), the court said the offences occurred when Say ran his company Noisnep and a scheme of pension investment. The name of the company is the word "pension" spelt backwards.
According to the court, Say was an independent financial adviser “with considerable experience and expertise in the field of pensions and in particular self-invested personal pensions”.
The prosecution's case was that the advisers had introduced clients to a scheme in which they paid money into their Sipp which, on paper, was loaned to them by Noisnep.
This contribution to their Sipp entitled them to basic rate tax relief of 20 per cent at source.
The tax relief was paid by HMRC to the administrator of the pension, Stadia Trustees, which in turn paid it to Noisnep for investment in the clients' Sipps, believing that Noisnep intended to invest the money on the clients' behalf.
Some £900,000 of tax relief was paid to Noisnep in this way.
The judgment stated: “The prosecution case was that the appellant dishonestly abused his position by spending on himself the money his clients had in their Sipps, generated by that tax relief.
“Some of the investors had also put money of their own into their Sipp. The appellant spent that on himself too. The prosecution case was that the total loss was over £1m.”
The fraud was committed between January 2010 and January 2016.
Say denied the charges but was convicted by a jury on July 20, 2017 following a trial at Chelmsford Crown Court.
He was sentenced on August 17 to six years for fraud by abuse of position and two years for fraudulent trading, to run concurrently.
Say was also disqualified from being a company director for eight years.
His lawyers argued that the sentence of six years imprisonment was “manifestly excessive”.