The hope for Ark pension victims is that they retain our respect.

This blog has covered the story behind the Ark pension schemes for nearly a decade. It has been a grim tale and it got grimmer last week as HMRC won a court case brought by Dalriada – the appointed Trustee for the schemes which means that members are liable for penal taxation and have only limited recourse to their original investments which have been eroded by poor investment management and the costs of managing the wind-up of the schemes (including lost court cases).

So there is now next to nothing left in the Ark pension pots and a great deal owing to the HMRC. The prospect for the victims of the scam looks utterly devastating. The thousands of victims have already seen among their number divorces , the loss of houses and eve suicides. This has been chronicled by Angie Brooks on and Andy Agethangelou through the Transparency Task Force, but protests have fallen on deaf ears. The consequences of poor decisions taken over a decade a go will last a lifetime, once well funded pension promises have morphed into tax liabilities.

The detail

The Ark pension scheme launched in 2010 and offered people the chance to unlock their pensions. It was promoted with a promise that members would be able to “access a lump sum which will represent up to 50% of the value of your pension fund”.

Stephen Ward, a former government pensions adviser, was among those promoting the Ark scheme.

In March 2011, he attended a seminar to push the pension funds at Silvermere golf club in Cobham, Surrey, assuring attendees they would avoid tax on the money raised from their pension because they were receiving it as a loan by another member of the scheme.

Ward, who is based in Spain and owns a number of holiday homes in Florida, inspired confidence. Jeremy Cornford, 48, an insurance adviser from Eastbourne, East Sussex, said: “[Ward] explained he had helped with the government legislation drawing up the pension tax simplification. If he says you won’t be paying any tax, then you tend to believe him.”

Stephen Ward – whose company sold many into the Ark Pension Schemes.

Cornford transferred his £94,000 pension into the Ark scheme and took a £40,000 loan. He was concerned about the tax consequences but was sent an email from Ward’s Spanish-based firm, Premier Pension Solutions (PPS), that stated: “There is no tax payable on the loan.”

Jeremy Donaghy-Sutton, 50, an airline pilot who lives in Madrid, also decided to join, transferring his final-salary pension pot of £390,000 from British Midland International into Ark and paying a transfer fee of nearly £20,000.

But even as the investors were flooding in, the Pensions Regulator was scrutinising the scheme and intervened, saying 5% transfer fees were not “justified or appropriate”. A High Court ruling found the loans to be “unauthorised” pension payments that were, in contrast to the assurances given, likely to be liable for tax.

In the worst scenario, a member of the Ark pension scheme could face a 55% tax demand on the loan they received, a 55% tax demand on any loan made from their own pension pot and a demand for the repayment of their original loan. Some could face bills bigger than the value of their original pension pot.

What hope is left?

There is one thing left to salvage, the self-respect of the victims for whom future prospects are bleak. Dalriada are looking to retrieve some money , it will now apply to the Fraud Compensation Fund, part of the Pension Protection Fund, for compensation for the burnt members. To qualify it will have to show dishonesty took place.

Suggestions that the victims rather than the architect of the Ark Schemes (Craig Tweedley) and those who sold it (Stephen Ward and others)  are dishonest , is likely to cause even more misery and self-recrimination.

It is extremely irresponsible to hold the victims to account for being scammed yet this is what I see happening on social media and in the comments of articles on the latest judgement.

The hope that is left is that the public shows more sympathy for those who are victims of scams than the courts.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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