UK Serious Fraud Office ‘seeks info from storage pod scheme investors’

UK Serious Fraud Office ‘seeks info from storage pod scheme investors’

The Serious Fraud Office has today announced that it is urging storage pod investment scheme investors in the Capita Oak Pension and Henley Retirement Benefit schemes, self-invested personal pensions (SIPPs) “as well as [investors in] other storage pod investment schemes” to get in touch, as it is launching an investigation.

Also included in the investigation are the Westminster Pension Scheme and Trafalgar Multi Asset Fund, which invested in other types of products, the SFO said in a statement on its website.

More than a thousand individual investors are thought to have been affected by the alleged frauds involving these schemes, including those who invested their pension funds, the SFO said in its statement. It said the amounts invested totaled over £120m (US$156m, €139m).

“The SFO encourages members of the public who have invested in these schemes over the period 2011 to 2017 to complete a questionnaire, which is available here,” the SFO statement adds.

It concludes by saying that it is unable to provide any further comment as the investigation continues.

A number of these schemes have been in the press previously, and cited by out-of-pocket investors and those who campaign on their behalf as having allegedly caused these investors to lose some or all of their investments.

The Trafalgar Multi Asset Fund, for example, was reported in January to be preparing to be wound up, and its remaining assets  distributed to the trustees representing the investors to whom the assets belong, including STM Fidecs.

The SFO’s investigation is being assisted by Project Bloom partners including the National Crime Agency and The Pensions Regulator. The Spanish authorities also assisted the investigation.

Project Bloom is a multi-agency UK group that was set up in 2015 to tackle pension liberation fraud, in the wake of growing numbers of investors coming forward to complain.

The SFO’s statement urges those interested in learning more about how to protect themselves from pension scammers to visit a page on the Pension Regulator’s website that addresses this matter.

Angela Brooks, a Spain-based former accounting consultant and tax adviser who says she is representing a number of  investors in these and other schemes, said the SFO’s action was coming “after more than two years of making statements to the SFO and providing evidence about the various parties involved in Capita Oak, Henley and Westminster”.

“Bearing in mind the  more that there are more than 1,000 victims, including hundreds of SIPP investors, [many of whom] were defrauded back in 2012 and who received tax demands for unauthorised payment tax charges this March/April from HMRC, this news is most welcome,” she added.

“There is, as yet, no explanation as to why it has taken the SFO so long, allowing one of the main perpetrators to scam hundreds more people than might have been the case.

“But perhaps it will finally come home to the law enforcement agencies that – as Lesley Titcomb of the Pensions Regulator has stated – scammers are criminals.”