MORE PENSION MISERY: Tory reaction to pension scammers…punish the victims


Where there are no ethics and no compassion, there are no red faces. Just blue blood.

You always know where you stand with the Camerlot Conservatives: whenever there is malfeasance in financial services, the innocent citizen pays.

When The Slog first learned of pension liberation schemes, I said they were a dangerous temptation to both clients and criminals. So it has proved.

Tens of thousands of people across the UK and abroad – who were told by conmen using sophisticated tactics that they could access their British pensions tax-free thanks to a legal loophole – were left with zip after being scammed: the money disappeared, and the majority  lost their entire lifetime savings.

Did the Government who introduced the scheme (and failed to catch the scammers) bail the victims out? It did not. It was left to Angela Brooks of ACA Pension Life, to set up a rescue organisation for pension liberation scam victims.

Are the HMRC storm troopers at least waiving their right to what would have been tax paid on the liberated sums? They are not.

Quite the contrary. Ms Brooks says HMRC is about to deliver “a devastating hammer blow” to the innocent victims: they are to be issued (some already have been) assessment letters for the sums concerned….which, thanks to George Osborne’s tax rate of choice, will be 55% of the entire pot.

That’s the pot they don’t have, on account of it having been nicked by unregulated conmen.

Is the Goverment at least going to give every hardship case the chance to appeal fully? It is not. In fact, the usual tricks are in play: the HMRC is leaving it until the very last minute to issue the demands…. a deliberate tactic to give victims the least possible amount of time to get themselves defended – and thus give the taxman a much stronger chance of avoiding appeals.

This is about as sick as sick gets, I think. As usual, the Pensions Regulator (tPR) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) fail miserably to bite off gargoyle heads thanks to a lack of teeth. The Treasury and DWP index-linked pension fatties help fraudsters in the front door by registering pension schemes without doing due diligence.  The Camerlot Cops are too busy lunching Newscorp and charging 94 year old DJs with fictional sex practices to catch the crooks. And so the victims – having saved dutifully all their lives – get wiped out and sent a tax bill.

Ros Altman

The fragrant and bejewelled Pension Minister Baroness Ros Altmann (pictured above) seems to have a compass within which the direction space is in an ongoing dysfunctional condition. In July last year, she told the FT that “The criminals behind this illegal activity often lay a sophisticated trap complete with glossy brochures and professional websites that make them look highly credible. Their aim is to catch you off your guard so they can steal your hard-earned savings.”

Seems their aim is pretty good: £4.7m was lost to pension liberation fraud in May 2015 alone, a 235 per cent increase on the £1.4m of losses reported in April….the month when over-55s were given new freedom to spend their retirement pots as they wish.

But her aim so far has been to do nothing. An ‘action group’ was set up in August. But here we are in January 2016, and liberation scam victims have lost retirement funds worth a staggering £2bn.

What has Draper Osborne had to say thus far? Read this, it’s a cracker:

“The pension freedoms we’ve introduced have been widely welcomed, but we know that nearly 700,000 people who are eligible face some sort of early exit charge. The government isn’t prepared to stand by and see people either ripped off or blocked from accessing their own money by excessive charges.”

We just aren’t prepared too help those who lost the lot. And naturally, we do not see a 55% tax charge on “their own money” as a rip-off.

Ah, Dorian Graymoron and his depraved dingbats….their loveliness goes on and on. This little number can now be added to their delightful attempt to pauperise female State pensioners born in the 1950s. Having pulled off The Great Welch on that one, more evidence is now coming to light that they lied through their teeth about how the “long term publicity” was distributed to these women.

Many of the leaflets were not posted, but simply left in Job Centres….exactly where you’d expect to find lots of nearly-OAPs of course. Sources in the DWP admitted last week that a substantial minority of the 50,000 women involved had never been sent direct notifications.

Some Sloggers will remember that I was vilified on Twitter by the more devoted followers of Frances Coppola, after posting in support of the women’s pensioner group (WASPI), denied their money by the budgetary incontinence of Westminster politicians over the last sixty years. The following week, the House of Commons debated the issue and disagreed with Government heartlessness – by the small margin of 158-0.

Last December – having seen nothing emanate from Ros’s fantasy Rozzers, Angela Brooks again called on the government to set up an independent, specialist task force to tackle the “serious and growing problem” of liberation scams with a joined-up approach that would involve HMRC, the pension regulator and the Financial Conduct Authority. So far, this suggestion has been greeted by the sniffing of snouts: it has fallen on deaf ears; mouths in authority are tight lipped.

But tens of thousands of innocent people are destitute. Cue a comment from Dan Hannan to the effect that as regulation is so useless….um, let’s not have any at all.

My God, but this lot are a complete shower. What Britain needs is a proper, grown-up Opposition….and the sooner the better.

Last night at The Slog: future is shite, the future is an Orangutan