The whole story Back to Index
On Monday 29th Jan 2018, 12:15pm, BBC Radio 4's consumer programme, You and Yours, reported on my pension nightmare that almost resulted in financial ruin and did result in the most stressful eight months of my life during 2016, when I discovered what had happened and tried to get it back! The programme can be listened to here: You & Yours 29th Jan 2018 and the pension topic starts 2 minutes in. Alternatively there's a summary on the BBC News website.
I was indeed offered money to keep quiet about what happened, although those that made the offer told the BBC it was a goodwill gesture. In my opinion, that is rubbish – they simply wanted to silence me!!
My name is Stephen and I am a resident of Milton Keynes and this is a detailed and factual account of what happened to my defined benefit pension in 2015 after I showed up on the radar of financial adviser(s) not authorised to give me investment advice or transfer my pension.
I have irrefutable evidence some of the actors that participated in my pension transfer used fraudulent misrepresentations, lied and deceived me – a diagram of all actors can be found here
lied about their authorisation to give investment advice – they claimed on the Letter of Authority (”LoA”) they were registered with the Czech national Bank in January 2015 but they were not registered until May 2015! and then only licensed for insurance mediation not giving investment advice or transferring pensions! – FACT in my opinion a serious and significant breach of EU directives and UK legislation but neither the FCA nor Czech National Bank care! Either could take action but choose not too!!!
lied about the recommended funds being audited and regulated in their respective jurisdictions – there were no audits, Blackmore offer document states it is unregulated(page 18) and The Symphony Fund is explicitly licensed in Malta for professional investors only – FACT;
fraudulent misrepresentation about the role of HMRC, a trusted organisation; in a letter to me, dated 12th March 2015, the “Optimus Pension Plan is Qualified Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS) approved and listed by UK HMRC”, which I contend influenced my decision to transfer to an offshore Scheme which turned out to be against my best interest. Again no authority in any jurisdiction cares about fraudulent misrepresentation!
failed to provide information pursuant to the Insurance Mediation Directive 2002/92/EU Article 12(i).
lied about the funds investing in “traditional” funds when in fact my money was invested in opaque private venture schemes – FACT;
lied about the funds being suitable for retail pensions when in fact one fund was explicitly licensed only for professional investors – FACT;
failed to disclose one fund was locked in for 10 years, something I only discovered by accident later from the trustee in an e-mail from OPAL to my new adviser dated 23rd May 2016 OPAL said “However, as per the advice given to Mr Sefton, Blackmore has a 10 year lock in period.” but no such advice was ever given. It isn't stated either in the brochure or Offer Document – FACT;
made statements about tax advantages by transferring to a QROP but failed to disclose that I first had to be non‑resident for 5 consecutive tax years to enjoy these. I had already said I was not planning to leave the UK.
those communicating with me on a daily basis failed to disclose they were directors/employees of the fund being recommended to me – FACT;
failed to disclose the receiving Scheme was a member directed scheme and the consequences of this – FACT
failed to disclose that you surrender your right to FCA protection and Ombudsman services if you accept advice from an unauthorised adviser and invest in unregulated funds – FACT
failed to disclose the conflict of interest between the introducer firm and the advisory firm – FACT
lied about acting in my best interest when in fact they were interested only in their own enrichment by advising a predetermined one-size-fits-all portfolio that is dependent purely on who the introducer is and had nothing whatsoever to do with my best interest – FACT.
There was irrefutable deception from start to finish.
ALL scams attempt to get round the legislation designed to protect investors and in a nutshell, this is how they do it:-
“introducers” (Aspinal Chase in my case) claim they don’t give advice but use third parties to give the “investment advice” – in my case the adviser was David Vilka, director of Aktiva Wealth Management and Square Mile International Financial.
The “introducers” generally own an unregulated fund (Blackmore Global in my case) that they are trying to raise subscriptions for and they have a business relationship with a third party advisory firm to ensure their own fund is recommended to potential investors.
The owners of the unregulated funds claim investments come only from “institutions” and not retail clients – unregulated funds cannot be promoted to retail clients.
The directors of the funds also claim they have no contact with the retail beneficiaries but only deal with “institutions”.
These “institutions” are offshore pension schemes – QROPS – chosen as the receiving provider of your pension; you later discover that the QROPS claim you – the victim – are “a member of ... a “member directed scheme”. By a member directed scheme, it is understood the member is directing the decisions on his member account, with the guidance of an appointed investment adviser ... “. That is what I was told by the MFSA in a letter dated 15th June 2017 in response to my complaint that the trustee failed in its duty of care. Basically, you are being told by the regulators, there is no “duty of care” with this type of scheme. This is how the QROPs sidestep any responsibility for “duty of care”.
Of course none of this is disclosed either by the receiving trustee or the [mis-]adviser at the time you are being [mis-]advised! Moreover, the fact that the “adviser” is not authorised to give investment advice ANYWHERE in the EU seems irrelevant to the receiving trustee or any regulators in any jurisdiction – MFSA, Czech National Bank or FCA!
The QROPS and the regulators are fully aware of what is going on but do nothing about it. It seems regulators in some EU jurisdictions do not hold any obligation to protect innocent residents of other member states, even though the block purports regulatory alignment, unity and solidarity. They are quite happy to turn a blind eye. There is no “U” in EU apparently, it is an illusion, a farce!
This type of Scheme is designed to avoid regulatory obligations but it is peppered with undisclosed information and deliberate deception – in essence fraud – see section 2 & 3 of the Fraud Act 2006, which clearly defines fraud by misrepresentation or failure to disclose information. Many sections of the FSMA legislation were contravened as this account will show. The BIG issue however is that complaints about the [mis-]advice from a firm regulated in another jurisdiction have to be made to the competent authority in that jurisdiction; however the Czech National Bank has to date ignored all my communications.
I have irrefutable evidence there was a business relationship between the adviser’s firm – Aktiva/Square Mile – and Aspinal Chase, PLUS the directors of Aspinal Chase were also the directors of Blackmore Global; and the unauthorised adviser recommended a predetermined one‑size‑fits‑all investment based purely on who the introducer was, therefore confirming the advice was predetermined in line with said business arrangement irrespective of my best interest ‑ in contravention of EU directives and regulations in all member states regarding client's best interest rules.
I will also explain how the very system designed to protect me, failed me and then every authority in every jurisdiction turned their back and abandoned me. I ended up significantly financially damaged and 3 years on, those that did this to me continue their trade.
The lawyer representing the firm Square Mile Financial Services, who are domiciled in the Czech Republic and regulated only for insurance mediation, did offer me £6000 on 8th May 2017, on conditions: “(a) ...[I do] not make further communications to any person of any nature ... including journalists, blogs, financial advisers, regulatory authorities of any nature or any other non‑governmental groups such as Action Fraud, The Pensions Watchdog or similar working bodies in relation to the Pensions Industry ... (b) to dissociate [myself] entirely from the journalist known as Angie Brooks and not to give her any assistance directly or indirectly in connection with any matter whatsoever” – FACT!
This offer was made in the context of the [mis-]advice I got from David Vilka, now a director of Square Mile (previously a director of Aktiva Wealth Management), in early 2015, that resulted in my Defined Benefit pension being transferred into wholly unsuitable offshore funds. FACT.
I recently made a Subject Access Request to my ceding provider, Mercer, for all communications between them and all third parties in the matter of my pension transfer from the Letter of Authority to the transfer of my pension. I received an interesting body of narrative adding further to the incriminating evidence I already have.
In 2015, my Defined Benefit pension was transferred offshore, first to a QROP in Malta, Optimus Retirement Benefit Scheme No. 1, (whose literature claimed it was approved by HMRC, which is just one of many misrepresentations made to me – HMRC DO NOT approve schemes) administrated by Optimus Pensions Administration Ltd (“OPAL”) on behalf of trustees, regulated in Malta, Integrated Capabilities Malta Ltd., (“ICML”); it was then moved to an assurance company in the Cayman Islands, Investors Trust, who by the way don't appear to have permission to sell their product anywhere in the EU, only to have 75% of it wend its way back to Blackmore Global, an investment house run from city centre offices in Manchester and registered as a closed-ended investment in the Isle of Man number 010221V. FACT!
Such a convoluted route begs the questions: why was a QROP recommended to a UK resident; why did the adviser think it in my best interest to be invested in opaque, unaudited funds instead of traditional funds; how can it be in the best interest of a 60yr old man to recommend an illiquid fund locked in for 10 years – which was another deception as this was not disclosed at the time of the advice?
Guilty of nothing other than ignorance, I knew nothing of these things at the time and the “education” has cost me dearly – Fraud Act 2006 section 5(4).
Rory Percival, a guest on the BBC radio programme and a Technical Specialist at the FCA between 2006 and 2016 confirmed that Blackmore was definitely not a suitable investment. In fact his first word when shown the Blackmore Offer Document by the BBC was “gosh!” There is little doubt, from a subject expert, that investing in it was against my best interest therefore contravening the client's best interest rule FCA 2.1.1 in all member states that implement MiFID Article 24(1)
According to OPAL, in an email dated 5th Aug 2016, my Blackmore investment comprised sub‑funds in what I can only describe as obscure, high risk, private enterprises with a suspicious provenance and not the “traditional funds” suggested in their brochure – which has mysteriously disappeared from their website but I still have a copy!
The remaining 25% went into The Symphony Fund, an Open-Ended fund, licensed by the Malta FSA as a professional fund only on the Nascent Platform, launched by Custom House Global Malta, now taken over by Apex. It was what the FCA would refer to as an Unregulated Collective Investment Scheme (“UCIS”) or nowadays using the wider definition, called an NMPI – Non Mainstream Pooled Investment, and it is unlawful to invite investors categorised as un‑sophisticated or not of High Net Worth, to participate in these – that's me!
I have a letter from David Vilka, a director of Square Mile, dated 27th May 2015 inviting me to invest in The Symphony fund, not only in contravention of the Financial Services and Marketing Act 2000 s.238, but falsely saying the fund is “... suitable for retail pensions”! It is a requirement, in all member states implementing EU Directive 2014/65/EU, for advisers to carry out a suitability assessment before communicating any such invitation. NO assessment of my suitability was ever made by anyone – FACT – even though ICML, the trustee, claimed they had a suitability report but refused to produce it when challenged. They can’t possibly have one since an assessment was never carried out.
Custom House Malta, offered an umbrella platform, the Nascent Platform, as a cost effective solution for start-up fund managers since 2010. I hold it was a vehicle that could be (and has been) exploited by scammers because due diligence by platform directors, of the sub-funds they accept onto the platform, is ineffective and regulators in Malta were not doing their job!
The Trafalgar Multi Asset Fund (“TMAF”), also on the Nascent Platform, was reported by Helen Burgrraf of International Investment to be wound up following “...significant concerns with respect to the conduct of the investment manager” (James Hadley of Global Partners Limited – adviser – and Victory Asset Management – fund manager). This was reported to shareholders in a leaked document (that I have a copy of), in August 2016, by Richard Reinert, a Director of the Nascent Fund SPC. It begs the question how many other unsuitable funds are there on this platform being mis-sold to retail clients?
TMAF is also the subject of an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office along with other pension scams Capita Oak & Henley and Westminster.
There were serious anomalies in the timings of the purchase and redemption of my holding in Symphony which were never explained and my complaint brushed aside by the trustee (ICML) in an email dated 22 Dec 2016, as “administrative errors on Investors Trust side” – FACT.
Furthermore, the trustee was never able to provide an accurate valuation – ever – FACT.
What transpired was truly shocking, I lost 30% of my holding in Symphony overnight when the NAV dramatically dropped just before redemption despite being assured by OPAL, in an email dated 24th July 2016, providing an update of the redemption from some 3rd party: “The last month or two have been pretty good so I believe he has made a decent profit since investing.” The false statements just kept rolling on, email after email!
The Symphony Fund ceased trading in early 2017 shortly after I wrote an email, dated 27th Feb 2017, documenting my many issues with my Symphony holding. No explanations were EVER given for the anomalies; no one was ever sanctioned for the contravention of the fund's license and I was never granted restitution for the financial damages resulting from being invested in a fund in which it was unlawful in either jurisdiction, to offer me and which I never agreed to in the first place anyway – the trustee just went ahead and placed the instruction to invest 25% of my pension in a fund I was not allowed to participate in, on the orders of David Vilka, a director of Square Mile and according to the FCA, unauthorised to advise me on my pension transfer! Vilka was NEVER empowered by me to make independent unilateral investment instructions on my behalf and the trustees should not have gone ahead with it without first asking me! But they did. I contend that once my pension was transferred to Investors Trust, the trustee effectively “surrendered” all control of it.
In an email dated 31 May 2016 Vilka said: “I can advise that I have to countersign the request to Investors Trust from Optimus to carry out any instructions”. This was even after I had engaged the services of a new IFA to help me repatriate my pension AND the trustee had been advised of this and he questioned the trustee why Vilka was countersigning instructions! This is highly irregular. The relationship with Investors Trust was never satisfactorily explained.
The MFSA later replied when I made a formal complaint, telling me the trustee did no wrong! Seriously? Which bits of all this is right? What can I do if the regulators aren't willing to acknowledge I have been wronged and financially damaged, as a result of a trustee investing 25% of a retail client's pension into a fund, licensed by their own regulator as a professional fund, without my authority, on the say so of an “adviser”, not authorised to give investment advice anywhere in the EU? All these issues just got swept under the carpet!
Shortly after my complaint however, I received an email (March 14th from Square Mile's lawyer) saying: “We hugely appreciated your email of 27 February, in which you set out your position more clearly and in much more detail. “ Shortly thereafter, a £6000 offer was made via Square Mile's lawyer, conditional on my silence!
In the email to me, dated 8th May 2017, offering this settlement, Square Mile's lawyer, stated his clients had been in discussions with Symphony over my redemption and wrote: “... we agreed informally with them almost two weeks ago that they could reclassify some transactions as clerical errors from your account. Since then, it was calculated that the reclassification exercise would give rise to a refund of a further GBP 6,000” but went on further to say “... there was a run on the Symphony Fund by all investing trustees, which was specifically triggered by Angie Brooks’ earlier emails to the various publishers. The fund is therefore now being liquidated ... “ This was a feeble and spurious attempt to blame the collapse on Angie; Angie had nothing to do with it; it was probably triggered by my 27th Feb email and probably forced by some 3rd party once it was known it was being used contrary to its licence. I guess we'll never really know the truth.
I lost c.£30,000 and they offer £6000 as “goodwill”! It would have been more appropriate just to admit it was a mistake to invite me to participate in this fund in the first place and redeem my investment, in toto, unconditionally – with maybe an additional £6000 for goodwill. That would have been justifiable – but reclassified clerical errors? What are “reclassified clerical errors?” If there were clerical errors that resulted in financial loss then I am entitled to a correction unconditionally aren't I? If you're short changed by accident in a supermarket, they correct it but don't ask you to keep quiet about it nor call it “goodwill”. However, I didn't sign their settlement and the “clerical errors” they have clearly admitted to remain uncorrected! I am amazed the lawyer agreed to send this email.
One director of Square Mile at the time, John Ferguson, also owner of Lillywhite International and ATSG (no longer trading) was reported by International Adviser, in Aug 2014, to be appointed the global distributor of The Symphony Fund, a feeder fund to best selling author, Mike Dever's Brandywine Asset Management.
So, the evidence shows one director of Square Mile recommended to a retail client, a fund his co-director was global distributor for and which was not licensed for retail client participation. None of these facts were ever disclosed by Vilka, nor OPAL, the trustee I still contend had a duty of care to me. Yet, OPAL/ICML claim to have carried out due diligence on both the advisory firm and the funds before approving them into the Scheme but it seems they didn't see any conflicts of interest or irregularities in status of the advisers or that Symphony was licensed only for professional investors? It begs the question why not?
However, I have always believed the trustee had been unwittingly drawn into enabling the [mis-]advised pension transfers by the advisory firm in the mistaken belief it was legitimate business. They did in fact manage to get back 92% of my pension and it was repatriated back to the UK and further managed to persuade most (but not all) parties to waive the early exit penalties and refund administration charges. The one fund that did not cooperate was The Symphony Fund.
These are the facts and they are irrefutable. Are these the actions of an adviser acting in my best interest? We later learn, in the Radio Programme, that Vilka told the BBC, regarding the activities of Square Mile “… [their] activities had been “inspected and verified in full by numerous regulators” ...” and the programme also reported that Mr Vilka maintains his firm is authorised and – again – has not done anything wrong. Which bits of this seem right? How would the FCA or Ombudsman respond if this advice had been given to me by a fully authorised IFA?
Phillip Nunn's road to success – along with his partner Patrick McCreesh – seems to be littered with people who are facing financial ruin and I am told some have even committed suicide, as a result of losing their pensions to highly organised scam(s), that Nunn & McCreesh are on record as having played a part, however innocent a part they might consider it to be.
The witness statement of Leonard Fenton, dated 27th May 2015, in the matter of the insolvency of Transeuro Worldwide Holding (“TWH”), Imperial Trustee Services and Omni Trustees Ltd, clearly describes Nunn & McCreesh's role in the Capita Oak scam that lost over 1000 investors circa £120m in storage pods. As directors of Nunn McCreesh LLP, dissolved Oct 2015 and It's Your Pension Ltd., dissolved in Oct 2016, they are on record for providing 100-200 leads per month and receiving £899,826 from TWH during 2012-2014.
So to summarise, Nunn & McCreesh pocket almost a million quid and 1000 investors look financial ruin in the face.
After Capita Oak, Nunn & McCreesh went on to set up their own fund, Blackmore Global, registered in the IoM 27th Sep 2013 and new companies – Aspinal Chase, registered in Gibraltar 5th July 2013 (No. 110127) with Nunn & McCreesh appointed as directors on 13th Aug 2013, plus Pensions & Life UK Ltd. incorporated 23rd Sep 2014. They then began transferring pensions into their fund with the help of financial advisers, and at least one is not authorised, by the FCA, to give investment advice or transfer pensions – David Vilka.
By the way, there appears to be anomalies in David's history – his LinkedIn profile – which I printed – says he was at the Halifax from Nov 2008 until March 2015, while the FCA Register, records him as a CF30 at the Bank of Scotland from Oct 2008 to Nov 2012 and I have two letters from him, dated 25th Feb 2015 and 12th March 2015 on headed notepaper of Aktiva Wealth Management (later Square Mile). Whilst I accept Halifax is the trading name of Bank of Scotland following their merger, what is significant is the 3 year inconsistency in the dates of employment and therefore his regulatory status at that time he was advising me! I asked the FCA to confirm the accuracy of their data but they said they rely on companies to provide accurate data and have advised I contact the Halifax.
In January 2015 I unwittingly showed up on the radar of Aspinal Chase/Pensions & Life Uk Ltd, and Square Mile, and so began my own nightmare.
Phillip Nunn, along with Patrick McCreesh, and others, in their capacity as directors/employees of Aspinal Chase, Pension & Life UK Ltd and Blackmore Global, were instrumental in the mis‑advised transfer of my pension to a Maltese QROP and then into their own opaque offshore fund, recommended by David Vilka, who the FCA have confirmed, both to me and the BBC, is not authorised to arrange pension transfers – FACT.
Aspinal Chase Ltd. and Pensions & Life UK Ltd. were run from the same Manchester offices in Albion Wharf as were Nunn McCreesh LLP and It's Your Pension Ltd as it happens – same people different names – and from there they provided back office services to Aktiva Wealth Management later aka Square Mile International Financial s.r.o. – FACT.
David Vilka, a director of Square Mile, is/was not authorised to give investment advice or transfer my pension, confirmed in writing by the FCA and to date no one has provided evidence to the contrary despite numerous challenges to do so. FACT.
On 26th May 2016, the FCA wrote in an email to me:– “Our register shows that Square Mile International Financial, s.r.o. is a firm based in the Czech Republic. As this is within the European Economic Area (EEA), their status with us is “EEA Authorised”. This means they’re regulated by their home state regulator, the Czech Ministry of Finance, but they hold a passport which allows them to offer their services to consumers in the UK. However, their passport only allows them to carry out insurance mediation, so they’re not authorised to arrange pension transfers.” The BBC reported the FCA had confirmed the same to them.
The FCA went on further to add: “I’ve also searched our register for David Vilka and found details of an individual called Mr David Marc Vilka, however he isn’t currently authorised to offer financial advice.“
In an email dated 31st May 2016 the FCA also said: “Square Mile International Financial, s.r.o. isn’t authorised to carry out any investment-related activities in the UK. This means they’re unable to offer you advice about transferring your pension or arrange for this to happen.” and added: “I understand that you’ve been told that your pension has been invested under ‘insurance rules’. Even though some investments may have an insurance element, they’re still investment products and it’s the investment rules that apply.“
I fail to see how anyone can conclude anything other than Vilka contravened FSMA 2000 s.21 & s.238 plus subsequent treasury orders 2005 s.48 & s.50 by first recommending Blackmore Global in March 2015 and then in May 2015, the NMPI – The Symphony Fund.
Aspinal Chase & Pensions & Life UK Ltd., were responsible for the whole business process from first contact – by Luke Averill, also a director of Blackmore since 2014 and Jack Sheridan, a Senior Consultant at Blackmore since 2014, according to their LinkedIN profiles, neither of whom disclosed this conflict of interest at the time btw – to giving instructions to my ceding provider Mercer, to transfer my pension to the offshore QROP – I have a letter from Mercer, naming Pension & Life UK Ltd. – FACT.
All Aspinal Chase employees/directors appear to have attempted to erase their involvement in the company because none of them list Aspinal Chase in their LinkedIN profiles. However, the Subject Access Request I made to Mercer shows emails to them from Luke Averill – titled as Sales Director Aspinal Chase; Claire Malley, titled as Head of Administration and PA to Phillip Nunn & Patrick McCreesh Directors Aspinal Chase, and also emails/letters from Jack Sheridan and Lindsay Burke. – FACTS! In these communications they seem to interchange Aspinal Chase and Pensions & Life UK Ltd arbitrarily. I don't know why.
Claire’s email to Mercer dated 12th May 2015 says “As discussed please accept this ID as required in order to proceed with the transferring [my] pension to Optimus Pensions. Certified passport attached.” The said attachment was a photocopy of my passport and is certified by David Vilka as “Good Likeness to Person”. However, to this day I have never met David Vilka, so he has no idea as to my likeness – FACT! Is that even legal?
I was even sent, by Aspinal Chase/P&L UK, a pre-filled application form (and yes, I have a copy and it is clear as day it was pre-filled!) to the receiving provider, naming Blackmore Global as the investment instruction for my pension. So whilst Nunn & McCreesh may point to David Vilka as the adviser that advised me to invest in Blackmore, they cannot claim, as McCreesh has tried, they were unaware of that advice or that my pension was going to their own fund – Blackmore Global.
Patrick McCreesh, in an email to me on 9th June 2016 when I submitted a complaint said: “...we do not deal with the advice side ourselves, and accept these investments from the institutions and trustees concerned in their capacity as institutional investors”.
Also in a letter from McCreesh to Angie Brooks (which I have a copy) dated 12th January 2017 on Blackmore Global headed notepaper, McCreesh states: “ As an investment house at no stage have we or would we ever deal with your “client” [me] being the individual pension fund beneficiary” He goes on further to claim: “Blackmore Global is a professional investment company and we have no relationship with any party other than the professional, institutional investor itself ...”. However, his companies, Aspinal Chase and Pensions & Life UK Ltd., carried out the entire workflow from first contact to subsequent transfer of funds, including providing me a pre-filled application form specifying their own fund as the investment instruction for the trustee and the individuals carrying out this workflow (Averill, Sheridan & Malley) were associated with the fund being recommended to me! This sure looks like a “relationship” with me, the retail beneficiary.
In addition to these facts, Angie Brooks has published an email – and says she has many more where that came from – dated 5th August 2015 from John Ferguson (owner of Lillywhite International ) and a co-director of Square Mile with David Vilka at the time I was being persuaded to transfer my pension. The key message in that email is his unambiguous admission that they were providing a service to Aspinal Chase – not to me!
Ferguson says their operation is basically: “... co-ordinating the flow of business between ‘introducers’ (unregulated and unauthorised entities ... ) who are often looking to fund their own product ... “ and goes on to explain: “We offer a service to the Manish’s / Aspinal Chase’s of the world and our IFA’s will sign off the business, provide the advice, deal with the pension and invest a proportion of the fund into the investments these introducers are trying to raise subscriptions on.” This is unequivocally a business relationship with a “third party” to secure subscriptions to their own fund from my defined benefit pension transfer. It is in black and white.
The business plan from the outset was without doubt, to transfer “a proportion” (75% in my case) of my pension into the “introducer's fund” – ie Nunn & McCreesh's Blackmore global. The other 25% went into Symphony for which Ferguson was reported to be the global distributor!
This whole operation had no intention of acting in my best interest but acted solely for their own enrichment! Blackmore it seems, was the target fund before anyone even considered what might be in my best interest! Ferguson even confirms they have “...various agreements with our introducers and they are confidential.” So confirming the “business relationship” with the introducer’s – Aspinal Chase – the director’s of which are also the owners of Blackmore Global. McCreesh's letter dated 12th January therefore is clearly not telling the truth!
Black & White proof there never was independent advice because they were acting solely in the interest of their “introducers” with a one-size-fits-all portfolio that is determined by who the introducer is and they had no intention of acting in my best interest!
This breaches FCA 2.1.1 – client’s best interest rule and MiFID Article 24(1) which says: “Member States shall require that, when providing investment services or, where appropriate, ancillary services to clients, an investment firm act honestly, fairly and professionally in accordance with the best interests of its clients” – so is a requirement in all member states! This begs the question why the Czech National Bank – the competent authority for the Czech Republic – have not sanctioned Square Mile!
Irrefutable evidence this is a pension scam – appropriating pension funds for their own enrichment and not in the best interest of the client!
Are Nunn & McCreesh really trying to say they were not working in collusion with David Vilka to appropriate my pension for their own opaque, unregulated fund?
Last year, Nunn & McCreesh hired Slater & Gordon to threaten Angie Brooks with a law suit, claiming the things she was reporting were untrue.
For the record, Angie was reporting, albeit colourfully, the evidence I have given her and if it ever goes to court, I am a key witness.
Using the definitions of a scam provided by the pensions regulator recently in a letter by Lesley Titcomb, Chief Executive of Pensions Regulator to Rt. Hon Frank Field MP, chair of Work & Pensions Committee, dated 13 Nov, 2017 Section 3, it is inconceivable anyone could fail to conclude I am unquestionably a victim of a pension scam. I would wager (a lot!) on any judge so concluding in a heartbeat! You?
The S&G lawyer, Steve Kuncewicz, claimed Blackmore was not a Collective Investment Scheme – operating one is a regulated activity and it is a criminal offence to do so without FCA authorisation; FSMA 2000 s.19 (the general prohibition) & s.23.
Kuncewicz claimed Blackmore was a closed-ended company. This is true as a registered legal entity in the IoM Number 010221V.
Blackmore does appear to have changed its business model recently, probably as a result of changes in IoM legislation that came in to effect Nov 1st 2017, but I am not up to speed on their new business model, however this website bondreview.co.uk sheds more light on the business model and the risks an investor faces. I am no expert but this doesn't look good to me! You decide. The question is whether any “institutions” buying Blackmore bonds are doing so on behalf of retail clients, being advised by advisers not authorised by the FCA to provide that advice?
By reference to the appeal by Capital Alternatives in FCA vs Capital Alternatives, 2015, Lord Justice Vos concluded that what matters is the substance and not the form and he ruled, in respect of the criteria in FSMA 2000 s.235, that Capital Alternatives was a CIS.
Using the criteria of FSMA s.235 in the same way as Lord Vos, I contend it could also be argued that Blackmore operated as a Collective, a regulated activity, during the time I was invested in it. Furthermore, Blackmore’s own brochure, page 8, “Factsheet” section said: “Type: Closed-Ended Collective Investment Scheme” and Vilka, in an email to me dated 29th May 2016 said: “I would also like to add that although your investments are not UK regulated investments, both Funds are properly recognised and audited collectives, regulated in their respective jurisdictions accordingly” not only stating they are collectives but also falsely claiming they are audited – to date there are NO published audited accounts. Given Nunn & McCreesh boast about having a combined 25 years expertise in financial services and Vilka boasts his qualifications in financial planning I have to take these statements Blackmore is a collective as true.
Just communicating an invitation to me, an un-sophisticated investor and not of high net worth, to participate in a NMPI is unlawful (FSMA 2000 s.238). It is difficult to see how Vilka can argue he has done no wrong or that Nunn & McCreesh can hold they are not “knowingly concerned in the contravention of the Act.”
However, nothing has been heard from Kuncewicz since August 31st, 2017, despite numerous requests for answers to questions from Angie Brooks. Just silence.
I have already received two legal threats directly myself – one aggressive threat from Square Mile's lawyer, in 2016 regarding a thread I started on the Citywire forum, which was removed by Citywire, and I heard from him again in Feb/March 2017, when the offer of £6000 was made, conditional on my silence.
My trustee, ICML, also shamefully turned on me and I got a threat from their lawyer, GANADO Advocates dated 26 Sep 2016 because the trustee didn't like my tone(sic)! I was at the time staring financial ruin in the face in excess of £400k and they didn't like my tone – Seriously? No one cared about my best interest it seemed – only their own! I was £400k+ out of pocket, under considerable stress with the FCA telling me I was probably a victim of a scam and every IFA I spoke to telling me I would most likely not see a penny of it ever again and those claiming to be acting in my best interest add to the stress by wanting to sue me!
In August 2016 I requested OPAL obtain information of the sub-funds my Blackmore holding was invested in. They told me they got the info from Brown Brothers Harriman. I don't know what role Brown Brothers Harriman played in this, but when I received a valuation dated 30 April 2016 it was titled “Brown Brothers Harriman & Co as Custodian for the current valuation”.
For the record, I never received any dividends for my investment even though the Blackmore brochure promised a 10% return. In fact I didn't even get back 100% of my capital since the NAV had fallen slightly, even though Kuncewicz falsely claimed I made a profit! You would think the lawyer would check the facts eh? It's all just been a conveyor belt of false statements from all quarters.
OPAL reported, in an email dated 5th Aug 2016, the sub-funds my pension was invested in were:– Spinaris. 90; Blackmore Estates; GRRE Funds; Kingston Capital; MDB Capital; Spinaris; New Social Capital Ltd; Powerscourt and Swan PCC.
Not a traditional fund in sight as suggested in the brochure (page 4) and some are no longer trading. There is very little on Google about these. There is some information on a couple of the funds.
Swan PCC, previously owned by Brian Weal had an 8% share in Etaireia who, under the direction of Stuart Black, raised money for land in Scotland and falsely announced it had planning permission for 152 residential houses – ShareProphets.com summarises (for free!) an exposé by David Marchant of Offshore Alerts.
GRRE was also owned by Brian Weal and the Anguilla FSC ruled: “The Anguilla Financial Services Commission on 20 July 2015 has suspended the mutual fund licence of Drake PCC as it relates to GRREIF because, in the opinion of the Commission, it is detrimental to the public interest“
In an exposé in March 2015, Marchant of Offshore Alert, revealed Weal was a director of Kijani Resources Ltd, that played a major part in the much reported Blevedere scam.
Brian Weal was also a director of Blackmore until the Gibraltar FSC ruled in Dec 2014 he was not to assume the position of Director of any Experienced Investor Funds following serious and significant corporate governance failings with the Advalorem Fund.
So not a reassuring portfolio and it hardly represents a solid, low risk – or even medium risk – portfolio suitable for pensions! In fact, it is easy to see why Angie refers to it as “illiquid, high risk crap” – how else would you describe this lot? However, in the same above referenced letter by McCreesh, 12th Janaury 2017 he alleges Angie Brooks “... cannot possibly have any ability to assess the nature of the investments into and made by Blackmore Global” Oh, but she does because I gave her the email from OPAL dated 5th August 2016 listing the investments they obtained for me.
It's also easy to see why Blackmore remains opaque and doesn't publish audited reports notwithstanding numerous promises to do so for at least the last two years.
I have seen a list of at least 64 other people invested in Blackmore Global via offshore QROPS as far afield as Hong Kong and introduced by Aspinal Chase using either David Vilka or Scott Campbell as the IFA, [I don't know the latter so make no comment].
Nunn & McCreesh, if they have nothing to hide, are welcome to open up Blackmore and publish audited accounts, along with detailed information as to the “nature of investments made by Blackmore Global”. Lay it out for scrutiny by fully regulated IFA’s and we’ll see how many of them would recommend Blackmore for retail client’s pensions! How many would take a sharp intake of breath and exclaim, like Rory Percival – “gosh!”?
Vilka is also urged to provide hard evidence he was authorised to give investment advice in 2015 when he mis-advised the transfer of my Defined Benefit pension.
Vilka constantly asserts I am lying and he is authorised – despite the FCA saying he isn't! You would think if he really was authorised to give investment advice it could be proved in a heartbeat. So why doesn't he? However, what he said in an email to me dated 29th May 2016 was: “I can confirm that I am qualified to UK adviser standards and have ifs Level 4 diploma for Financial Advisers and Professional Certificate in Banking”. I have no evidence of his qualifications BUT being qualified is not the same as being authorised to provide advice on the transfer of pensions.
The BBC Radio 4 programme reported that Vilka said, “Square Mile International Financial's permissions and activities had been “inspected and verified in full by numerous regulators” and maintains that his firm is authorised.” I ask, “authorised” to do what? – oh yes – INSURANCE MEDIATION! That's what the FCA register says and what the Czech National Bank register says, and they are the competent authority in the Czech Republic.
Mercer are not wholly “blame free” in all this. On 27th January 2015, Jack Sheridan sent an email to Mercer enclosing a Letter of Authority authorising Aktiva Wealth Management (later Square Mile) plus Pensions & Life UK Ltd.
The LoA says Aktiva operate under “… Dutch AFM License #1201730” – which is actually another false statement, the licence number is #12043870! However had Mercer actioned the Pensions Regulator’s guidance issued 2013, they could have easily checked that licence and discovered it is limited to Insurance Mediation ONLY and therefore they could instantly see Aktiva were not authorised to advise on the transfer of my pension! They have told me however, they didn’t check.
What Mercer then did, in a letter dated 18th Feb 2015, to Jack Sheridan has got to be the most stupid thing ever.
They sent Aspinal Chase the valuation as requested along with the Scorpion Warning Pack and said “The Pensions Regulator has published material for pension scheme members to alert them to the dangers of pension scams …. as requested by the Pensions Regulator we have enclosed a leaflet that explains to members the dangers of transferring to such an arrangement … Please forward the enclosed leaflet to Mr Sefton ...” I kid you not!! Guess what – I was never sent that warning by Aspinal Chase …. surprise ,surprise! Where was Mercer’s common sense?
The very system, designed to protect me just kept letting me down because of sheer incompetence by those entrusted to act in my best interest!
The Square Mile website says: “All our consultants demonstrate many years industry experience with leading financial institutions, and all hold UK financial planning qualifications” but again, qualifications is NOT the same as “regulated” and, taking advice from advisers not authorised to provide that advice means you lose significant rights and are barred from accessing the Financial Services Compensation Scheme when things go wrong! That's never disclosed either!
Ⓒ 2019 Stephen Sefton – All Rights Reserved