The "mastermind" behind a £13.7 million pension scam has been banned from being a trustee of pension schemes and a company director.
David Austin, along with his co-conspirators Susan Dalton, Julian Hanson and Alan Barrett ran a scam that cost 245 people their pension savings. They were persuaded, by cold-calling and other techniques to transfer their valuable pension savings into one of 11 scam schemes that were operated by Friendly Pensions Limited (FPL). In a bid to protect pension savers, all four have now been banned from acting as pension scheme trustees and have been ordered to repay all victims.
Victims of the scam were told that if they transferred their pension pots to FPL, they would receive a tax-free payment, described as a "commission rebate" from investments made by the pension schemes. However, Mr Austin moved funds from these schemes to his bank account and to those of his family members across Europe as well as through a number of businesses he had set up in multiple countries. The High Court ruled that Mr Austin and his family had derived at least £1.3 million from the scam and that Mr Barratt had been paid more than £380,000, Ms Dalton more than £168,000 and Mr Hanson £7,000.
While Mr Austin had not been appointed a trustee of any of the schemes, The Pensions Regulator decided it had to take action and ban him as a trustee as he had been "dishonestly involved in the misuse or misappropriation of scheme assets."
Furthermore, it 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."