Those who saw Sue Flood give tell her story and the story of 500 other victims of the Ark pension scandal, will not forget it in a while. Sue and her husband have lost their savings, their mental health, their physical health and now face bankruptcy by the HMRC – whose negligence created the scandal in the first place.
I have promised in front of everyone who attended the Transparency Task Force meeting in London yesterday, to
- Share her story here
- Start an online petition to call off the HMRC and their threat of bankruptcy
- Help those closer to Government to escalate this matter
The petition is not yet approved by Government – we are told this will take a few days. You can view it, you can sign it here , we may have to start it again , if it fails in its approval
I could and should have done this a year ago when I sat with the Pensions Regulator and then in the Royal Courts of Justice as a barrister suggested poking the victims with a “sharp stick”.
As Kate Upcraft pointed out, HMRC are an agency of Government, our Government, they are acting on our behalf and this makes it all our problem.
Angie Brooks has helped Sue and her fellow victims – not just a year but for many. That her voice has not been heard is almost as much a scandal, as Sue and the Ark victims are not alone.
She is making sure their voices are heard and that the people who start these schemes, advise on these schemes and steal people’s money, are brought to justice.
Here is Sue’s story, in her words, as told to us in the City of London, yesterday
My name is Susan Flood, I am not a financial adviser nor do I have any experience in the financial industry.
I am here today to tell you how I became a victim of a pension liberation scam [and how it impacted on me and 498 other people]. In 2011 I saw an ad in a newspaper in Spain by a fully qualified IFA (with FPC MAQ credentials] who was “part of the award-winning AES TEAM who provided professional financial advice. We arranged to meet with a financial adviser and it was made clear that our risk appetite was low HAVING BEEN scammed previously. The advice initially offered an Irish bond, but the AES financial adviser then suggested a tax free lump sum with the remainder being placed into a UK Pension Provider. Our application to transfer was referred to Premier Pensions Solutions run by Stephen Ward (who is a fully qualified G6 advisor and was a contributor to the Tolley’s Pension Guide). The Ark scheme was sold to us as HMRC COMPLIANT, having both HMRC REGISTRATION NUMBERS AND TPR registration NUMBERS.
Please note, Premier Pensions Solutions are a G60 fully qualified firm, who I believed were authorised to provide pensions and investment advice in Spain using the TIED AGENCY AGREEMENT with AES International who were MiFiD licenced since Aug 2010 pursuant to section 39 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 and subject to the rules of the FSA . AES are also registered on the CNMV website, DGS. The advice we received from AES via Premier Pensions, looked kosher to us having come from an Award-winning team and we felt “all good on the regulatory front”.
Two weeks after our transfers completed in May 2011 when our paperwork did not arrive, I immediately contacted Mallets our lawyers to seek the return our pension monies. Our lawyers believed we had been the victims of Fraud and Mallets notified the ARK Trustees requesting them to return funds to original ceding providers “. Mallets then informed me in correspondence dated May 27th 2011 that AES and Premier Pensions Solutions were both on the FSA Register, “but did not appear that my advisor was not authorised to provide pensions advice of behalf of AES International. (Despite my complaints to the FSA and FOS , they ruled this out of jurisdiction.)
In July 2011 Mallets informed us that TPR had appointed Dalriada, as an independent trustee with exclusive powers, to all the Ark schemes.
We contacted Dalriada and immediately offered to pay the monies we had received back, but this was refused on the grounds of expedited legal proceedings being brought by Dalriada in the High Court some 6 years on and 4.3 million in fees .
By December 2011, Justice Bean ruled that the original trustees had been operating a pension liberation scam and the loans were ‘a fraud on the investment’ rules. HMRC chose not to be joined to the proceedings brought by TPR’s appointed IT.
SO, NOT GOOD AT ALL. In short, we were placed into a scheme operating loans between other Ark scheme members and the balance of the pension transfer monies were then paid to cover commissions and fees to the controlling scammers/introducers. To add further insult to injury, the monies we were told that would be invested in UK pension providers were put in very high risk illiquid property overseas. Not what we requested! At no point de we request a loan, or want a loan, the monies we received were supposed to be a legitimate tax free lump sum from our pensions. So, in reality all this is still hanging over us.
So 7 years on where are we?????
Following several subject access requests over a period of time, I have obtained evidence that my papers (and others) were forged by the IFA/Premier Pension Solutions (and AES with or without their knowledge). From early days I have stated our signatures cause us huge concern on our paperwork, this FEAR was Bourne out in 2013 on commissioning and paying Gardner Brooks Angela Brooks and Nick Gardner both had deep concerns regarding our Paperwork and the validity of our signatures, the criminal complaint was to be a criminal report to the Authority’s as outlined in the 2014 open letter to Sam instone CEO AES from Angela Brooks but this did not materialise .
To date no liability has been accepted, with No offer to put us back in the same situation previous to the ADVICE been given by the IFA working for AES, Stephen Ward of Premier Pensions Solutions. Premier Pension Solutions did however send me a letter of Libel and Defamation to me via DWF Solicitors who were representing them.
In addition, I have contacted the following authorities, by phone, email and had face to face meeting:
FCA (and its predecessor FSA)
FOS (who initially informed me that this was out of UK jurisdiction despite AES International being on the FSA register along with Premier Pension Solutions)
The Pension Regulator (TPR)
Serious Fraud Office (SFO)
City of London Police (COLP)
Action Fraud – 15 REPORTS MADE in 2013 AND AGAIN IN 2015
IAN DUNCAN SMITH
SPANISH AUTHORITYS / CMNV / DGS
SAUNDERS AND CO LAWYERS
RUAL BOVER SPANISH LAWYERS
To date, none of the UK authorities have taken action against the original controlling minds behind this scam, they are not being brought to account and punished for making off with members’ pension monies. The only action currently underway by a UK regulatory authority is the action being undertaken by HMRC to issue penalty fines against Ark victims, which after 7 years they have yet to complete. The Ark victims and Dalriada, are still waiting for HMRC to agree when the test ‘Tax Tribunals’ cases can be scheduled to be heard! During this time, what pension schemes monies remains are being depleted due to Dalriada’s fees and the prolonged exchanges with HMRC and of course, HMRC’s threat of interest accruing on our impending tax penalties!
It is difficult to describe the sheer torture the last 7 years has been, constantly dealing with the complete unknown. The effect this has on me my family, health and mental wellbeing! The sheer terror and night sweats sometimes are too overwhelming to describe.
At one point, following the complaints that I had submitted against the perpetrators I was so fearful for my family’s safety, plus the reality of the situation I found myself in, caused me to have a mental break down. The devastation this caused, resulted in my family all falling apart, my partner developed ulcerative colitis but manages to work 6 to 7 days a week to do his best, our combined pensions which were transferred amounted to £250k we had worked hard and saved diligently for our old age, its difficult every day working in these worrying circumstances, especially as we feel like sitting ducks waiting for HMRC and Dalriada pick us all off one by one!
HOW CAN SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAPPEN?
Back in 2006 HMRC changed the online Pension Registration, trying to reduce the burden of what was deemed an intensive bureaucratic system of registering pension schemes. This REGISTRATION regime WAS THE MAIN SELLING POINT to ‘people like myself’ AND assurance for THE CEEDING pension PROVIDERS that the appropriate level of CHECKs had been done by HMRC for them TO RELEASE OUR PENSIONS to what were scam schemes.
HMRC replaced their familiar robust system with an automated system with little or no human oversight “a tick box exercise “.
The down grading of HMRC’s registration checks was only known to the pension industry e.g. trustees, ceding schemes, administrators and who had no control over the NEW LEGISLATIVE REQUIREMENT that HMRC operated from 2006.
The new system allowed the predators to come out of the wood work in droves TO CON, LURE AND CONVICENCE VICTIMS THESE SCHEMES WERE LEGAL AND GENUINE.
Armed with the HMRC registration certificate they then registered the new scheme with TPR giving the double FALSE ILLUSION that a through system was in place, they then used both registrations as the selling point to their victims. But in reality the water tight check no longer existed.
The ceding provider relied on these very “registrations “to allow the transfer out into the hands of false “occupational schemes “which were not fit for purpose. Pension scheme monies then went on to line the pockets of this scammers, passing the residue of funds into horrendous unregulated, illiquid investments, most of them overseas.
The tick box registration process was used to register the 13 ARK scam schemes and many other known scams with complete ease.
In December 2017 TPR bought a successful case of dishonesty to the HIGH COURT against an individual Julian Hanson AND OTHERS relating to a recent scam. Julian Hanson was also one of the key trustees of the ARK SCAM schemes. The judge on handing down his judgment in January 2018 to TPR ordered that his judgement be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), so that criminal proceedings be considered, owing to what he felt was shocking behaviour by Julian Hanson and the other scammers.
To date, there has been no indication since the referral to the DPP, that it has reached a decision as to whether they will consider opening a case for criminal proceedings. For me and many pension scam victims these last 7 years, it is hard to see that “the criminal element continue to decimate hard earned pensions so easily and the perpetrators and scammers have blatantly got to laugh in the face of the authority’s. “So far, I believe they have conned 12 police officers to my knowledge. HOW SURE ARE THE THAT THEY DO NOT RISK FACING ANY ACTION.
The fact that HMRC has since now reverted back to the more robust system of registration the number of schemes being given approval to register a pension scheme has resulted in a huge drop in scams being reported and it is now much harder for scammers to get schemes registered, AMAZING!
It does however leave the PRE-SCORPION victims (Scorpion campaign started in 2013) at the hands of this failed system between 2006 and 2013 when HMRC reverted back to the more ROBUST SYSTEM. If I had been robbed, mugged, etc there would have been a victim support group I could have been referred to, however as a victim of pension scammers there is nothing! I and other members of Ark had so set up our own action and support group. The system so far has failed us massively!!!
I and other Ark victims are for HMRC ‘LOW HANGING GRAPES, less costly than investigation, action, to admit this scam and bring about justice for the victims WHO WERE ADVISED TO TAKE THESE cash lump sums. We, THE GRAPES, are far easier to punish than going after the ‘perpetrators for what they did on Ark! You will not be surprised to learn that the likes of Stephen Ward of Premier Pensions Solutions, Julian Hanson and many other scammers, have been involved in more pension scams since 2011 (you need only look on TPR’s website to see this).
Questions which remain unanswered for me?
- HMRC met with the perpetrators of the Ark Scheme in Feb 2011 and had serious concerns of Pension Liberation and yet the scheme was allowed to continue to the devastation of 486 victims of this dishonesty. These scam schemes were attached to to dormant employers or complete start-up companies.
Given the information obtained by HMRC in February 2011 and further information provided by TPR and Dalriada following their appointment, why have they not sought to bring regulatory action against all the controlling individuals behind this scam?
- HMRC chose not to join the proceedings brought by the independent trustees appointed by TPR to High Court proceedings in December 2011. So why 6 1/2 years on are the Ark victims still waiting to know our fate? How much longer will this slow torture continue?
- Barclays bank failed in its duty to carry out basic money laundering checks as required by law and should have been extremely concerned with the amount of money being transferred into new scheme bank accounts which were linked to predominant start-up companies. (Please note that in 2011, there was no pension freedom legislation!).
Why has the FCA not looked into the poor money laundering actions of Barclays? If they did, have Barclays been fined for lack of duty and care? Why has this not been published?
So finally in summary:
EVERY DAY I LIVE FEARING FOR THE FUTURE, it is difficult to describe the sheer torture of the last 7 years and the complete unknown, I and the other victims worry about losing our homes, going into bankrupt, the effects to our family’s health and mental well being. Now I and the rest of the Ark victims sit like lambs to the slaughter whilst we wait for HMRC to devour our individual carcasses and to levy a tax penalty against the 13 schemes that Dalriada will have to pay from what is left of our pension monies. HOW CAN THIS BE JUSTICE?
My IFA advisor is currently being looked into by two top lawyers in Spain and Germany on behalf of victims whose paperwork have allegedly been forged, by the same perpetrators of ARK.
I hope the European lawyers will now pave the way and bring about justice for those victims who have endured in this country such unbearable cruelty from our authorities who find it easier to pens push and pick on low hanging grapes, rather than do some good old-fashioned work and get justice for those sold legal and tax compliant products to under 55yrs.
It is beyond my comprehension to this day how we have found ourselves in this horrendous nightmare and still the same names and same people have continued without charge, it is also beyond devastation to watch and know exactly how the victims will be dealing and feeling and the suicidal thoughts that will undoubtedly come along with the shame and embarrassment without any victim support.
The public will call us greedy and stupid. Oh yes we are only too aware of the horrendous mistake TRUSTING OUR PAID FINANCIAL ADVISOR. WE LIVE THIS MISTAKE EVERY DAY, but behind that mistake were unscrupulous financial advisors driven by greed, state of the art fraudsters, criminals beyond the reach of the authority’s.
Instead of the authorities using their combined powers to locate and cross reference the names of the people who were responsible for the creation of Ark the authorities, namely HMRC, who due to their change of pension scheme registration legislation in 2006 made it easy for theses fraudulent schemes to be set up. So rather than the original trustees and/or the regulated/qualified IFAs being chased and punished, it is the victims who have endured this pressure for 7 years. There have been 4 suicides, countless family breakdowns, mental illness, families ruined and with no victims support of any kind to support them. The VICTIMS are now facing tax tribunals from the very department, HMRC, who’s registration process failed them. THIS INDEED LADIES AND GENTELMEN IS INJUSTICE. IT IS CLEAR THAT The low hanging grapes will pay!!!!
Thank you for listening to me and to Andy and the team at the Transparency Task Force for allowing me to speak today , this speech is also in memory of those Ark Victims sadly no longer with us due to suicide or ill health, I hope whoever is responsible will one day face corporate manslaughter, and criminal action.