Pension scam ‘mastermind’ banned

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has banned the alleged mastermind of a £13.7 million scam along with his three associates from ever becoming a pension scheme trustee ever again.

David Austin has also been disqualified from being a company director for 12 years by the Insolvency Service.

Life savings

Austin and accomplices Susan Dalton, Alan Barratt and Julian Hanson ran a scam which persuaded 245 people to invest their life savings in 11 scam schemes operated by Friendly Pensions Ltd.

Earlier this year the quartet were ordered to repay to millions of pounds they had conned out of their victims after TPR brought proceedings against them in the High Court.

Commission rebate

In evidence TPR told Judge Mark Pelling that the victims were told that if they transferred their pension savings to any of the 11 schemes they would receive a tax-free payment described as ‘a commission rebate’ from their investments.

But instgead Austin laundered funds from the schemes through his bank account and those of family members in the UK, Switzerland and Andorra via a number of businesses he had set up in the UK, Cyprus and the Caribbean.

At least £1.3 million

The court heard Austin and his family had received ‘at least’ £1.3 million in benefit from the scam with Barratt being paid £380,000, Dalton more than £168,000 and Hanson £7,000.

Austin was never appointed as a trustee of any of the schemes, but TPR ruled that action had to be taken as he had been ‘dishonestly involved in the misuse or misappropriation of scheme assets’.

Banning

Banning him from ever becoming a trustee TPR 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.”

They also decided to ban Dalton, Barratt and Hanson from becoming trustees, along with Austin’s daughter Camilla who had been involved in a £120,000 scam, because of their dishonesty and the amounts of money they took.

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Joined forces

TPR joined forces with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in August to launch a new national awareness campaign about pension scams. They revealed at the time that pension fraud victims had lost an average of £91,000 each in 2017.

Mark Steward of the FCA said: “The size of individual pension pots makes pensions savings an attractive target for fraudsters. That’s why we’re urging anyone who is thinking about transferring their pension to check who they are dealing with and only use firms authorised by the FCA.”