BBC Radio 4’s You & Yours reports on three victims of a pension investment scam called Blackmore Global, two of whom were cold called by David Vilka of Square Mile International Financial.
The three victims were persuaded to transfer their funds from secure company pensions into QROPS (Qualifying Overseas Pension Schemes). The victims have since struggled to track or recoup their investments in the Blackmore Global fund.
Stephen Sefton, a driving instructor from Milton Keynes, was the main focus of the You & Your´s program. Most of his pension fund had been invested through the overseas pension scheme into a fund called Blackmore Global. The rest had gone into an investment fund in Malta. A year later disaster struck.
Stephen became a member of Pension Life after he was unable to track and evaluate his overseas pension investment. Upon calling the City regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), he was informed that his adviser – David Vilka of Square Mile International Financial – was not regulated to give investment advice. Furthermore, the fund in Malta was a professional investor fund only and was not suitable for a retail investor like him.
Stephen, taking advantage of the new pension rules, had transferred £415,000 of his company pension scheme into a new pension in 2015. He wanted to access his money early and give some to his children. He had found the advisory firm online; seen the company’s FCA registration number of David Vilka’s firm (Square Mile International Financial based in Prague) at the bottom of the firm’s letters. What he did not realise, was that the firm was only regulated for insurance mediation, and not investment advice.
Stephen, managed to get most of his money back after pursuing his case for many months. However, he lost £30,000 of his investment as the fund in Malta dropped in value at the time of withdrawing his money.
Having succeeded in recouping a good chunk of his money, he received an email from Square Mile International Financial offering him a bribe of £6,000 to cease all contact with outside sources. This included regulatory authorities and Action Fraud!
David Vilka, one of Square Mile International Financial’s directors, claims this to be incorrect. Instead suggesting the amount was a goodwill gesture to close the matter amicably.
Unfortunately Stephen Sefton’s recovery of his money is a minority case, many other victims of the Blackmore Global Pension Scam are finding it difficult to recover their money.
David Vilka insists that Square Mile International Financial is a completely legitimate firm. He claims the firm has been “inspected and verified in full by numerous regulators”. Furthermore, Stephen’s reports to Action Fraud were returned saying it had not identified any leads to follow up.
The BBC also reported about another victim called Paul (not his real name):
“Paul” agreed to have his £100,000 pension fund transferred into another pension scheme and then invested in the Blackmore Global fund. This was after being cold-called by another company called Aspinal Chase who offered him a free pension review.
The small print stated investments were locked in for 10 years, which was way beyond Paul’s 60th Birthday. This was not mentioned to Paul when he made the transfer. Fortunately he managed to escape the lock-in, however he has still been unable to access his funds.
Paul told You and Yours “I’ve got three grandchildren. I’d like to take them all to Disneyworld in America. I want to spend the money I’ve earned over the years. A bit of that money would pay off the last bit of my mortgage, so that is a big chunk of my future. I feel as though I’ve let the family down.”
The perpetrators – Phillip Nunn and Patrick McCreesh – are listed as Blackmore Global’s directors in a fund document seen by Radio 4’s You & Yours program, which shows they each earn salaries of £20,000 a year.
David Vilka was also the financial adviser for Paul and also for the third victim reported, Jacqueline. Another cold-call victim of Aspinal Chase, Jacqueline has had no access to her funds.
Blackmore Global’s directors have refused to release the £50,000 she invested. You & Yours quoted, Phillip Nunn and Patrick McCreesh: who said, only allowed redemption´s in exceptional circumstances to “protect the integrity of the investment for its other stakeholders”.
Phillip Nunn and Patrick McCreesh deny that their company, would engage in cold calling or pension advice. They claimed that any advice must have been given by separate, regulated financial advisers.
Nunn and McCreesh also say they have no financial relationship with David Vilka or Square Mile International Financial. In fact, they state they are totally independent from them! However, there has to be a good reason why Vilka has invested so many of his victims’ pension funds in the Blackmore Global fund – and risked criminal prosecution because Blackmore Global is a UCIS (Unregulated, Collective, Investment Scheme) which is illegal to promote to UK residents.
Pension Life is aware of a further 38 victims cold called by Aspinal Chase, Nunn & McCreesh´s firm. Originally being advised to transfer their funds into a Hong Kong QROPS, the victims´ funds finally made their way to the Blackmore Global fund. The total amount of funds scammed from these UK resident victims amounts to nearly £1,000,000!
To listen to the broadcast on the BBC’s website, click here.
To read the news story based on the You & Yours report, click here.
As always, Pension Life would like to remind you that if you are planning to transfer any pension funds, make sure that you are transferring into a legitimate scheme. To find out how to avoid being scammed, please see our blog: