The Pensions Regulator has banned the man branded the “mastermind” of a £13.7m pension scam and his three accomplices from being trustees.
David Austin – along with Susan Dalton, Alan Barratt and Julian Hanson – ran a scam that cost 245 people their pension savings, after the members were persuaded using cold-calling and other techniques to transfer their pensions into one of 11 scam schemes.
TPR has now prohibited Austin from acting as a pension scheme trustee to protect pension holders while the Insolvency Service has disqualified him from being a company director for 12 years.
Dalton, Barratt an Hanson have also been banned from being trustees of pension schemes.
In January the individuals were ordered to repay the millions of pounds they took from the schemes after TPR brought proceedings against the quartet in the High Court.
At the conclusion of the case, Judge Mark Pelling ruled Austin had been the “mastermind” behind the scam.
Victims of the scam 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 – a form of pension scam.
The High Court ruled that Austin moved funds from the schemes to 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.
Austin and his family had derived at least £1.3m of benefit from the scam, Barratt had been paid more than £380,000, Dalton more than £168,000 and Hanson £7,000.
Part of the scam involved £120,000 of scheme funds being moved to a company whose directors included Austin and his daughter, Camilla Austin.
Austin had not been appointed as a trustee of any of the schemes, but TPR’s Determinations Panel has ruled that TPR should take action as he had been “dishonestly involved in the misuse or misappropriation of scheme assets”.
Banning him from being a trustee, it said: “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 Dalton, Barratt and Hanson should be banned from being trustees both for their dishonesty but also because of the amounts of money they took from the schemes.
Separately, the Insolvency Service has banned Austin from being a company director for 12 years and his daughter Camilla for four years for their role in the misuse of pension scheme funds.
TPR and the FCA joined forces in August to launch a new national awareness campaign about pension scams and revealed victims of pension fraud lost on average £91,000 each in 2017.