The ‘mastermind’ behind a £13.7m pension scam has been banned from being a trustee of pension schemes and a company director.
David Austin, Susan Dalton, Alan Barratt and Julian Hanson, ran a scam that cost 245 people their pension savings. Members were persuaded to transfer their pensions into one of 11 scam schemes using cold-calling and other techniques.
After The Pensions Regulator (TPR) brought proceedings against the individuals in the High Court, in January 2018, the individuals were ordered to repay the millions of pounds they took from the schemes. At the conclusion of the case, Judge Mark Pelling QC ruled that Austin had been the ’mastermind’ behind the scam.
TPR said 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.
It also ruled that 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”.
The panel concluded that the evidence in relation to Austin’s conduct was so serious, and his involvement in the receiving schemes was so close and influential, that it warranted his prohibition from acting as a trustee of trust schemes in general.
TPR has now prohibited Austin from acting as a pension scheme trustee to protect pension holders and the Insolvency Service has disqualified him from being a company director for 12 years.
Dalton, Barratt and Hanson have also been banned from being trustees of pension schemes.