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BBC Panorama investigates overseas property Sipp investments

BBC Panorama

BBC Panorama is set to investigate the sale of overseas property Sipp investments in a programme to air next week.

The Great Savings Wipe Out will be shown on BBC One at 8.30pm on 25 March. The show travels to the Caribbean island of St Vincent to inspect properties that have received investment but have yet to be built.

The BBC website states: “A worrying number of savings scandals are coming to light as more than a million people chose to look after their own pension savings through Sipps.

“In a second Sipp case a respected finance house failed to raise the alarm to investors before £100m went missing after clear warnings to the financial regulator from a whistle blower.”

In January, the FSA warned advisers to ensure clients putting money in Sipps through unregulated overseas property firm Harlequin Property to be careful regarding investment suitability.

The alert said: “If a financial adviser recommends a Sipp knowing that the customer will sell current investments to invest in an overseas property, then just how suitable the overseas property investment is must form part of the advice given to the customer.

“If, having taken into account the customer’s circumstances, the financial adviser believes that the original investment is more suitable for the customer than moving to an overseas property, then the financial adviser must explain why the investment in the overseas property via the customer’s Sipp is not suitable for the customer.”

Update: The Great Savings Wipe Out has now been postponed and will not be shown by the BBC on Monday.

A BBC spokeswoman says: “We received information late in the production process of this film which has meant we have to postpone broadcast. It is hoped the film will be shown sometime in the near future.”


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There are 18 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. I hope they ask:
    “The FSA clearly knew several years ago that there were concerns over Harlequnin and did yet nothing again – WHY.”

    Exactly the same thing happened over Keydata. Nothing changes in Hector’s House – his legacy lives on. Millions and millions wasted – but still no investor protection.

  2. Not to worry, good IFA’s will pick up the bill when they go wrong so no client detriment.

  3. Indeed! As in the first case, the second one was also under the noses of the FSA for over two years.

    It is not about SIPPs, it is about regulated firms, the FSA and their collusion that allowed tens of millions of pounds to be stolen from people’s investments. The FSA are now indulging in a process of mis-briefing and lying to MP’s about what it knows. All will out.

    Will REAL people do anything about it is the proper question.

  4. I would hope MM are already quizzing the FSA what they have been doing about this over that last few years and if nothing why are IFA ‘s paying levies to them and how come they wait until now ? Most of the better Sipp providers have always avoided o/seas property for the reasons of risk and lack of reliable information ,have the FSA ever wondered why or asked the question , no of course not , until its too late? Hope panorama have contacted Hector and don’t just do another hatchet job on pensions per se !

  5. “The show travels to the Caribbean island of St Vincent to inspect properties that have recieved investment but have yet to be built.”

    Note to editor – I before E, except after C!

  6. I am sure that there has been so much whistle blowing by IFAs over the past few years that the FSA got tinnitus from the din and could no longer hear it.

  7. I report this to the FSA in 2009 and 2010 and have an email back from the FSA stating that they were only interested in the risk warning of the web site for Harlequin and any advice would come from an IFA how would have to check the investment out.

    I was so angry with them that I supplied these emails to Panorama

  8. Interesting…

    The BBC have reschduled this to an obscure time on the 28th March.

    Any idea why?

  9. @Anonymous:


    Allegedly Allegedly Allegedly Allegedly Allegedly
    Allegedly Allegedly Allegedly Allegedly Allegedly
    Allegedly Allegedly Allegedly Allegedly Allegedly
    Allegedly Allegedly Allegedly Allegedly Allegedly
    Allegedly Allegedly Allegedly Allegedly Allegedly

  10. Lets face it many of these investors were drawn in by their greed – now its gone pear shaped they are all bleating about it.

  11. There are some serious questions to answer here the first being why did the regulator take over 5 years to take action when people like myself showed concern back in 2009 and again in 2010. I even have emails from the FSA stating that only interested in the risk warnings on the website and it’s the responsibility of the IFA’s to check out the investment.

    That I’m afraid is simply not acceptable after all what is a regulator for if it is not their the check whether an investment is suitable for the marketplace.

    We have to ask why the FSA took no notice of advisers and members of the general public concerns on how this investment was being marketed. Why did the FSA allow this unauthorised firms and individuals to market and target individuals with pensions with NO AUTHORISATION

    Is the following this warning acceptable and why did Harlequin have detailed information on pension transfers on the website up until recently?

    Harlequin Property is the trading name of Harlequin Management Services (South East) Limited (Company Number: 4205220).
    Harlequin Property are not authorised and regulated by the financial services authority. Harlequin Property does not offer financial advice.
    Harlequin Property does not offer advice on SIPPs direct. We will introduce all interested clients to an FSA authorised firm for this purpose.All rights reserved.
    Any unauthorised copying or publication of images will constitute an infringement of copyright. The Vendor reserves the right to alter the specifications referred on this website without prior notice

  12. I think you will find that this program has now been pulled from the BBC schedule which would suggest that either Capita’s or the FSA’s lawyers have forced them to do so…….

  13. Whatever happened to SIPP provider due diligence?

  14. And why has it come to the stage where Panorama have it as a topic? The FSA should have nipped this in the bud. Or is this yet another case where FIMBRA/PIA/FSA/FCA/Godknowswhatnext have their feet so deep in the bonus trough that they can’t be bothered?

  15. Erica Broughton 24th March 2013 at 8:39 pm

    I do not agree with the last comment if there was greed involved then it was the greed of the IFAs what is at fault,This product was recomended because of the commision it made for them and not for the best investment for the client, Why would we consult IFAs if we had their knowledge we wouldnt would we?

  16. Erica Broughton 25th March 2013 at 7:16 am

    I think you will find most people were drawn in by IFAs so yes greed is the key but whos greed will be determined in proper courts, why do you think people use IFAs it is because they do not have the knowledge when it comes to finance themselves, 30% commision was a no brainer for some very greedy IFA wasnt it?

  17. SIPPs were manifestly unsuitable for the majority of customers from the outset.

    They were just a ruse dreamt up so that the wealthy could get more wealthy and people could make money along the way. Have any more people saved for their retirement ? NO !!!!

  18. If you have invested with Harlequin through a SIPP provider, we have a solution to help you get your money back!
    Contact CPC Worldwide on 0191 386 2487
    Email us at:

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