TPR bans three following £9m Scottish hotel scam

Three men have been banned from acting as trustees of pension schemes for transferring millions of pounds of members’ cash into overpriced land and hotel developments in Scotland.

Justice-Fine-Ban-Court-Gavel-Judge-700x450.jpgTimothy Walker, Desmond Cheyne and Macalister Lindsay have all been banned by The Pensions Regulator (TPR) from ever again acting as a trustee, following their connection to the Milton and Carrick Harbour occupational pension schemes.

Members of other pension schemes were encouraged to transfer their pensions into the Milton and Carrick Harbour schemes. TPR believes the trustees then invested funds held by the pension schemes in high-risk, unregulated investments in the UK and overseas without the members’ knowledge. Among the investments were land and failed hotel developments in Scotland, acquired at grossly over-inflated prices.

The Determinations Panel found that Lindsay showed “reckless disregard for his obligations” and “did know, or should have known that pension liberation was at least a likely explanation” for activities in the schemes for which he was a trustee.

The panel found that it was “more likely than not Mr Walker was complicit in the pension liberation activities”. It also concluded “that Mr Cheyne’s actions, or lack of them, and the gravity of the consequences for scheme members demonstrated a lack of competence and capability” for him to be a trustee.

Independent pension professionals alerted TPR to their concerns about the actions of the trustees, including reports of suspicious transfers from late 2012 to May 2013 and those involved having conflicts of interest.

Dalriada was appointed by TPR as an independent trustee to the schemes in 2013 and it is working to recover as much of the invested money as possible for the members.

The Determinations Panel ruled that Walker and Lindsay should be prohibited on the grounds that their lack of integrity, competence and capability means they are not fit and proper people to act as trustees of a pension scheme. The panel ruled that Cheyne, who did not contest his prohibition, should be prohibited on the grounds of his lack of competence and capability.

The men’s names have been added to TPR’s register of prohibited trustees.

TPR has today published a determination notice explaining its action to highlight the danger of scams and has urged pension savers, trustees and administrators to be aware of them.

TPR director of case management Mike Birch says: “The trustees showed a disregard for their obligations resulting in scheme assets being gambled on high risk investments that are now worth a tiny fraction of what was put into them.

“This has jeopardised the financial futures of the scheme members they were supposed to be supporting.

“Savers have the right to expect trustees to manage their pension schemes effectively. Where trustees cannot or do not do this, we will take action to protect members’ benefits by replacing them and then, where appropriate, ensuring that they can no longer act as trustees.”