Two trustees and a trustee company have been banned following an investigation into suspected pension scams.
The Pensions Regulator has banned David Fellowes, Francine Becker and Avalon Pension Trustees Limited and appointed independent trustee firm Dalriada as trustee of nine schemes presumed to be used for scams.
Fellowes and Becker told TPR Avalon had been appointed as trustee of the schemes in October 2013.
The trustees personally received £30,000 within the first few days of payments being made to Avalon and of £240,000 paid to Avalon, around £130,000 was paid directly to the trustees within four months.
The remaining funds were paid out by Avalon in fees over the same period. In addition, over £250,000 was paid to an unnamed barrister’s chambers.
Over £11m was paid into the funds within seven months of the first sponsoring employer being set up which suggests the schemes were being used for pension liberation, the regulator says. It says the trustees failed in their duty by not recognising the potential for liberation.
Aside from the money paid to the trustees or in fees, the only investment made by the schemes was in an offshore bond in Lichtenstein. The regulator says the trustees failed to do due diligence on the high risk investment and broke common law by concentrating assets in a single investment.
Andrew Warwick-Thompson, executive director responsible for the regulator’s work to disrupt pension scams, said: “This case illustrated a number of hallmarks of pension scams including cold-calling, excessive fees, high-risk investments based overseas and incorrect statements to members as to the tax consequences of transferring to the scheme.”
Avalon Pension Trustees is in no way related to Avalon Investment Services.