The UK’s workplace pension watchdog The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has launched a criminal investigation into what it suspects is an £18 million ($22.9 million) fraud against hundreds of pension savers.
TPR believes some 370 people have been persuaded to transfer approximately £18 million into eight pension plans, and said that six people have been questioned in connection with the case. The regulator said it opened a case after a number of legitimate pension plans received requests from members to transfer their savings into suspicious plans, and reported it to TPR.
“The legitimate schemes in this case did the right thing by raising their concerns with us and stopping their members transferring out and potentially losing their life savings in what we believe to be scams,” Nicola Parish, TPR’s executive director of frontline regulation, said in a release.
Warrants were executed at two homes in a TPR-led joint operation with local police, while a business location was also searched. Four people were interviewed under caution, and another two were arrested and questioned, all on suspicion of fraud offenses. They were released while the investigation is being conducted.
As part of the investigation, TPR’s Determinations Panel suspended nine people from acting as trustees for a year, and appointed an independent trustee to oversee the eight plans at the center of the investigation. The panel acted under TPR’s special procedure, which allows orders to be made without prior notice to the suspects when there is an immediate risk to the interests of members and the plan’s assets.
“If you are trying to transfer out of a pension scheme and your existing scheme is raising concerns, you should listen to them,” said Parish. “They are protecting your pension and any red flag warning signs should be taken very seriously.”
In a separate case, TPR said an accounts manager is being prosecuted on suspicion of misleading the regulator to hide a failure to provide workplace pensions at a string of restaurants.
Bradford-based Mansoor Nasir of Beaumont Management Services is accused of submitting false declarations of workplace pension compliance to TPR on behalf of nine ‘Akbar’ restaurants for which he was the payroll adviser.
Nasir faces nine charges of knowingly or recklessly providing TPR with information that was false or misleading, in violation of section 80 of the Pensions Act 2004. He has been summonsed to appear at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on Jan. 9.