Rogue financiers are shifting their operations abroad to fleece pensioners of millions of pounds.
An overseas base helps them dodge tighter UK regulations while also still taking advantage of official listings with the Inland Revenue.
Victims who have lost their life savings last night called on the Government to clamp down on the flagrant abuse of HMRC’S system for registering non-UK pension schemes.
Pension scammers are moving their operations abroad to dodge tighter UK regulations while taking advantage of Qualified Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes (Qrops). Continental Wealth Management is facing a £2.5million legal action in the Costa Blanca for using Qrops in alleged scams
They had thought it was safe to switch their nest eggs into the foreign funds because they were recognised by the British authorities.
But the money went into high-risk and often toxic investments that paid huge commissions to the scammers. The revelation follows a Mail investigation this week that has exposed how savers lost up to £10billion between them in UK schemes registered with HMRC and the Pensions Regulator.
This official registration led Army veterans, police officers, firemen, paramedics, care workers and teachers to believe the schemes were above board – until their money vanished.
The Government belatedly tightened regulations on British-based schemes – only for the swindlers to move abroad. This allows them to cold-call potential customers – a sales tactic outlawed in the UK this year because of its use by conmen. It also means rogue financial advisers can levy huge commissions, a practice also banned here.
Many people have lost their retirement savings (file image) as they were duped by scammers who are listed with HMRC and immediately 'lends credibility', according to Susan Monaghan, who was one of the victims
Pensions can be moved abroad only to companies on the official list of Qualified Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes (Qrops). And some of these have been exploited by scammers.
Continental Wealth Management is facing a £2.5million legal action in the Costa Blanca for using Qrops in alleged scams. Pension pots were poured into high-risk and complex products suitable only for professionals. The scammers then plundered the funds for huge commissions and savers who tried to withdraw what remained of their money faced crippling exit fees.
Susan Monaghan, who was one of the victims, said: ‘This formula is used over and over again in offshore financial services – and it makes plenty of commission for everyone involved but destroys the fund for the investors.
‘Being listed with HMRC lends credibility and that gave people reassurance.’ The Maltese authorities are considering 50 complaints about the Momentum Malta Retirement Trust, which accepted clients from CWM.
Miss Monaghan accused Momentum of failing in its ‘duty of care’ and allowing an insurance bond to be purchased that locked investors in for up to ten years and at great expense.
She added: ‘Momentum have known this for years with complaints being made as far back as early 2015 but they have continued doing the same thing since, allowing even more pensions to be destroyed.
‘They have allowed unqualified, unregulated firms to give investment instructions and despite seeing people’s funds go down, year on year, have done nothing.’
Julie Elsden, who lost almost her entire retirement fund after investing through Momentum with CWM, said she went ahead with her pension transfer only because it was HMRC approved.
She said CWM went to ‘great lengths’ to convince her of this and produced documentation with HMRC logos. ‘This situation has now left me with very little funds for my retirement,’ she added.
Stewart Davies, head of Momentum Pensions, said: ‘CWM collapsed over two years ago and since then, Momentum Pensions Malta – in conjunction with other advisers and trustees in the market – has assisted many consumers that have been affected.
‘We do not, and never have, provided investment advice and we do not choose or manage the assets which clients invest in.
‘Investment company documentation is also provided to all members at inception, which includes a clear cost disclosure and cancellation notice period.’