"This is a despicable case which highlights the devastating impact pension scammers have on their victims."
Following a prosecution brought by The Pensions Regulator (TPR), Alan Barratt and Susan Dalton were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on Friday after admitting charges of fraud by abuse of position arising from their roles as trustees of pension schemes.
Barratt received a sentence of five years and seven months while Dalton was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison. The pair were also banned from acting as company directors for eight years following a request by TPR.
The court heard how Barratt – who was extradited to the UK from Spain in 2021 in connection with the fraud – and Dalton were key participants in a high-value pension liberation fraud between 2012 and 2014.
The pair were part of a criminal enterprise which persuaded 245 members of legitimate occupational pension schemes to transfer their pension savings, worth about £55,000 on average and with a total value of £13.7 million, into scam pension schemes under the control of the defendants.
Once the savings had been transferred, the pair then passed the lion’s share of the money to mastermind David Austin who used it for his own personal benefit, to fund his businesses, pay others involved in the pension liberation operation and enrich himself.
Once independent trustees had been appointed by TPR to review scheme investments and assets, it became apparent that it was very unlikely that any pension funds would be restored for scheme members.
A civil trial brought by TPR against Barratt, Dalton and others, took place at the High Court in 2018 after which Barratt was ordered to repay c.£7.7 million and Dalton c.£5.9 million. Following the end of the trial TPR began a criminal investigation. Austin was part of TPR’s investigation into the allegations but died in 2019, before it completed.
Delivering his judgement, His Honour Judge Perrins, said: “What is the most striking is the impact on others which has been utterly devastating. I have read 13 victims’ personal statements, they each tell a similar story, which I’m sure is representative of all. People who had worked hard, saved for their future and have been robbed of their financial security. I heard about depression, anxiety, divorce and suicide attempts. Each account is a story of a life ruined and you should be ashamed of bringing such misery to so many innocent people."
Nicola Parish, executive director of frontline regulation at TPR, said: “This is a despicable case which highlights the devastating impact pension scammers have on their victims. Barratt and Dalton were part of a criminal enterprise that tricked hundreds of savers into transferring their hard-earned pension pots into scam schemes under their control. In their role as trustees, the pair enabled millions of pounds to be taken from the schemes and channelled offshore, where it was used to enrich others involved in the criminal enterprise and to profit themselves.
“This prosecution and substantial custodial sentence sends a clear message that TPR and the courts will take tough action against fraudsters. Our successful extradition of Barratt from Spain also shows there’s no haven for scammers."