£20m pension fraud duo sentenced to six years imprisonment

Two men have been sentenced to six years imprisonment at Southwark Crown Court, after convincing over 250 savers to transfer more than £20m of their pension savings into "wholly unsuitable" investments.

Mark Kelly and Rikki Nicholls persuaded a number of victims, predominantly Equitable Life customers, which Nicholls was a former employee of, to transfer their pension into accounts controlled by Kelly.

Customers were also persuaded to sign application forms with blank sections, which were later completed by Kelly and Nicholls.

Funds were then placed into high-risk and unsuitable offshore investments, without the victims’ knowledge, with these investments subsequently providing the defendants with high rates of commission, while the pension funds were left at risk.

Indeed, the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed that a number of those pension funds have since collapsed, resulting in victims losing from £10,000 to £200,000 of their pensions, while some lost their whole pension.

Kelly and Nicholls, meanwhile, extracted around 10 per cent of the gross sum in unauthorised commission payments, in excess of £1m each, for their own benefit.

The men were sentenced to a total of six years’ imprisonment following a five-month trial, and were convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud and transferring criminal property.

The investigation was first launched in 2011, following a referral from the Financial Services Authority now the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) of criminal misconduct, with detectives subsequently tracing and contacting over 250 victims from across the country.

Commenting on the case, CPS specialist prosecutor, Jane Mitchell, commented: “The harm caused by these fraudsters is immense, involving raids on the victims’ pension pots which wrecked their future livelihood and post-retirement plans.

"Many victims were left with no pensions and will have to work well beyond their retirement date to provide for themselves and their families.

“Mark Kelly and Rikki Nicholls cynically misled pension-holders, telling them they would have safe control over their pension funds but actually transferred the funds into high risk investments, without the pension-holders consent or knowledge.

"The fraudsters did so for their own personal gain, knowing the high-risk investments generated high commissions for them but had no concern for their victims who were losing money they’d worked all their lives for.”

Adding to this, Met Police Detective Superintendent John Roch, said: “Many of the victims are vulnerable by age and financial position, and as a result of the actions of these men, they have been left in severe financial difficulties.

"Many must continue to work in order to fund their retirement, or retire with a lesser pension, or even without a pension. These man have caused so much distress and anxiety to them.

“I would like to applaud the victims for their help with this investigation and thank those who gave evidence in court."

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