Continental Wealth Management (CWM) was a financial advisory firm based on the Costa Blanca in Spain. Headed up by Darren Kirby, there were – until earlier in 2017 – 35 people working at the firm. The firm claimed to have £50 million worth of assets under management and around 500 clients. The firm closed down on 29.9.2017.
During 2016/17, numerous clients of CWM began to realise that their pension and investment funds – managed by CWM – were shrinking in value dramatically. In fact, many clients had seen alarming losses being reported on their valuation statements and had asked CWM for an explanation. CWM had assured the distressed clients that these were “just paper losses” and advised them not to worry.
It has now become clear that in fact many clients have indeed suffered catastrophic losses and there is a very great deal of concern. One victim was taken into hospital on 25.9.17 with a brain hemorrhage and her husband fears that the distress of this situation has contributed to this life-threatening condition.
It is feared that up to 40% of CWM’s clients may have been affected by this situation.
BACKGROUND TO CWM
In mid-2011, Stephen Ward’s Premier Pension Solutions (PPS) lost the lucrative Ark pension liberation scam when the Pensions Regulator placed the scheme in the hands of Dalriada Trustees. Ward had advised 160 victims to transfer £10m worth of secure pensions into this scheme on the promise of having 50% of their pensions paid to them in cash. He also assured them these payments would not be repayable or taxable and that the pensions would be invested in “high-end London residential properties”.
In the event, neither of these assurances turned out to be true. Dalriada is now making claims to recover the 50% liberations and HMRC has issued tax demands at 55% of the cash received (and the tax will still be payable even if the liberations are repaid). The High Court called the Ark scheme a “fraud on the power of investment”.
Having ruined 160 lives, and made up to £1 million profit out of the Ark victims, Ward immediately turned his attention to his next scam: Evergreen New Zealand QROPS and his Marazion “loans”. Having seen how easily victims could be duped into transferring their safe pensions with the promise of 50% liberation, Ward appointed CWM as “introducers” to the scam.
Here is an actual account by one of the Evergreen/PPS/CWM victims of what happened to her:
Mrs. A: “I was first cold called by CWM in 2011. I first met Phil Kelman of CWM in January 2012. I was told only positive things about transferring my pensions and to be able to take 100% of my pension funds.
This, however, changed after the first meeting and I was then told that due to the government closing loopholes I would only be able to get 50% of my pension fund and that the other 50% would be in the Evergreen QROPS earning enough interest over the 5 years to cover the 50% that I could withdraw (before the age of 55) – a win win situation!
There was no mention of the 50% being given as a loan until much further down the line. This was supposed to have taken 6 weeks at the most, but it actually took nearly 10 months. I was told that the “loan application” was a paper exercise just to cover things – I obviously have no proof of these conversations! Due to the fact that in the beginning it was not a “loan” there was no talk of a 55% tax charge, also as it was QROPS I was told it wouldn’t have incurred a tax bill.
I was not given any opportunity to say what the consequences of losing my pension or gaining an extortionate tax bill would be – either in the short or long term. If I had known of the huge risk of losing everything then obviously I would not have gone ahead. I did not state that I was willing to risk everything to get the “loan”.
I was told that Evergreen was a safe place for my pension to be as Evergreen was “approved”. I was given a graph to show how my pension would not only make the 50% back up but make more on top of it.”
Mrs. A’s case was handled by CWM’s Marco Floreale (now Managing Director of Carrick Wealth) who claimed to be the managing director of CWM. Her secure, final salary, £100k Royal Mail pension was transferred to Evergreen and she was forced to sign a five-year “lock in” before receiving her “loan”. The loan agreement issued by Stephen Ward included annual interest at 8.5% compound which would mean that her £50k loan would have increased to £75k at the end of the five-year term. She was also charged more than £10k in fees.
There are now around 300 victims trapped in Evergreen as they are not allowed to transfer out. Ever. Between them they have lost £10m worth of pensions. The CWM personnel involved in this scam claimed that PPS was their “sister” company and have offered no help or compensation for the victims’ losses and terrible distress. One victim died of cancer in February 2017 and her husband is convinced that the stress of the Evergreen situation brought on the disease.
Phil Kelman, Jon Meek, Robert Pearl, Gemma Broad and Anthony Downs were among the CWM personnel who assured the victims that the transfers were in their interests as well as safe and prudent. It was, of course, later discovered that the Evergreen fund was invested in illiquid, high-risk, toxic funds – including personal, unsecured loans. Evergreen was removed from the QROPS list in November 2012 and the victims have now been told they can never transfer out.
It is not known how many other Stephen Ward/Premier Pension Solutions scams CWM was involved in, but when Evergreen got shut down CWM started acting as “advisers” to British expats in Spain and France. They were still working with Stephen Ward of PPS who provided the transfer advice. It is now thought they advised more than 500 people and that around 40% of these have suffered crippling losses to their investments.
I do not know whether CWM ever disclosed their previous involvement with Stephen Ward’s scams to the clients – although it is doubtful that any people would have felt comfortable using CWM had they known they had been responsible for the 300 Evergreen victims. Certainly, CWM did not disclose their past activities to either Trafalgar International or Momentum Pensions – had they done so they would never have been given terms of business by either firm.
From 2013 onwards, CWM invested hundreds of low to medium risk clients’ investments in high-risk, illiquid assets. CWM completely ignored the suitability issue and paid no heed to the clients’ preference for safe, low-risk investments. Clients’ signatures were repeatedly copied and once the losses started to appear, CWM assured them that there was nothing to worry about and they were “only paper losses”.
When asked why so many clients were put into professional-investor-only investments, CWM replied that the investors themselves were not the clients; but the insurance companies were the clients. When I showed CWM evidence of forged signatures on dealing instructions several months ago, there was no response then and no further communication from them subsequently.
In mid-September, it was reported that Darren Kirby and Anthony Downs had both resigned from CWM and on Friday 29th September 2017 the firm closed down altogether. CWM is rumoured to have tried to become a tied agent of a Cyprus-based firm called Woodbrook. But it is further suspected that Woodbrook has finally come to the conclusion that such an alliance may not be prudent.
The most important thing now is the restitution of the victims’ funds. OMI, Trafalgar and Momentum Pensions, have come to the table to try to find a solution and restore of the victims’ pensions and investments. If we can achieve an equitable settlement, this will be a first in European financial services. However, the parties who have not come to the table are life offices Generali and SEB, as well as other pension trustees including Concept, Sovereign, Pantheon, Elmo and STM. It is no surprise that STM have not come to the table, because they pulled up the drawbridge in the Trafalgar Multi Asset Fund scam, run by XXXX XXXX – now under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.
I would like to thank all the victims for their patience so far. But it has now finally run out – unsurprisingly. The mood has darkened and victims want action. A valuable information and commentary resource is the Repdigger forum. One interesting post recently reminded contributors that it was Stephen Ward of Premier Pension Solutions who provided the initial transfer advice. Nothing changes.
Stephen Ward is also connected to Capita Oak.
55 thoughts on “CONTINENTAL WEALTH MANAGEMENT – PREMIER PENSION SOLUTIONS’ SISTER CO”
We are pleased to read your post and would like to be kept informed of any further developments. If you require our help in any way please do not hesitate to contact us.
We believe that if everyone who has invested there money in continental wealth should group together and fight for our rights.
We were sent the closure email but have heard nothing since.
We do not know what or where our pension is.
David and julie
Hi David and Julie, I have put you on the circulation list for email updates.
My wife and I have also invested with CWM and would welcome updates. We are in contact with Trafalger who have been very understanding and helpful.
Hi I have also lost around £100,000 to CWM or Momentum or whoever is responsible I was contacted by email recently by a Dean Stogsdill assuring me that my pension funds were very healthy and looking a good investment Bollocks. Can I be added to a circulation list too please
CWM screwed us too. We need to fight together as this isn’t the only company that has been set up by the people in CWM that was fraudulent.
What were the other companies set up by the CWM scammers?
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It would seem my mother, now resident in the UK, Has lost €100,000 investment that was due to mature last month. Is there anyway she could get at least part of this back now?
Hi Mike, I am dropping you an email – several in fact – to let you know what the next stage is in recovering your mother’s pension.
I am another Victim of Anthony Downs and Graham, as believed the QROP scheme was tax efficient since at that time I was an Expat living in Portugal. Same history as above; I began asking questions seeing the pension loosing rapidly and now reaching over 150K, in high risk barrier notes schemes. I have returned to the UK in total despair selling up as quickly as I could. Due to stress my health has suffered and have been forced to move countries. One cannot measure the unbearable insecurity and worry due to unscrupulous evil people. The problem is if they are now bankrupt dissolved CWM there will never be any justice received. All they need do is change their surnames again, and set up another company for more elderly victims to be robbed. They must be stopped.
I am looking to find the name of the man that conducted my mpva on the costa blanca north, Javea, i think his name was Graham somebody…Any one know his last name ?
As another victim of CWM I have seen my pension totally depleted.As stated above we need to fight together as a group.Please can you put me on the circulation list for email updates.TIA.Deborah Hurst
Have put you on the circulation list for any updates and will send you the last one about the solicitors we are appointing.
We are also caught up in this CWM loop and any I do would be most grateful.
We are also caught up in this CWM loop and any info would be most grateful.
Please send me information on this.
I too have been caught in the CWM trap and estimate that I have lost about £100k. The exact figure I have yet to determine as the whole affair has been shrouded in deceit. My disabled partner and I have been shattered by the revelations following the closure of CWM of which I became aware on 30th September 2017. I spoke to Graham Micheals (former Managing Director of CWM) who continued to chop vegetables for the chicken cacciatore that he was preparing throughout our brief and uninformative conversation. Rarely have I been treated with such contempt.
Trafalgar GmbH finally e-mailed me a valuation on Monday 23rd October despite having sent an e-mail on 3rd October notifying me of their involvement and informing me that I would be contacted early the following week. When I finally received a call from a representative of Trafalgar GmbH (again on Monday 23rd October) the message that I received was discouraging. I know that the trustees had interceded on my behalf to try to speed up this process.
I had not received advice on who to contact for further information or how to recover or attempt to recover my losses or part thereof. Only after contacting an uninvolved, independent did the suggestion to contact Pension Life arise!
Please add me to the circulation list and advise me, if possible, on how I may contribute to the group and how I may help all of us gain justice, retribution and recompense.
please add me to your circulation list as my wife and i both have had pensions with CWM and would appreciate regular updates
Will do Ian. Sorry to hear you are a CWM victim.
I have money invested with CWM but have heard nothing from them for over a year when I queried a great loss in my pension. Any information would be greatly received.
I have also been victim of CMW, I would like to join any action group my losses amount to around £ 50,000
I will add you to the distribution list for updates and let you have details of membership.
I also have been a victim of the scum. Names & addresses would suffice for me.
I am also a victim. They were so genuine! What a fool I was. Please add me to the contact list. Trafalgar have gone silent no reply to my emails
Dont know exactly how much I have lost. Maybe in the region of 50k
We are seeing Momentum, Trafalgar and our lawyers this week. Will update you when I get back from London.
Dear Angie, I am yet another victim of CWM and any information you can send me about what options I have would be very much appreciated. Regards. Mark
I too am a victim of CWM please can you send me what procedures I need to persue.
Have just emailed you.
My husband and I have also lost a large amount of our pension due to CWM – I can’t believe that there are such such people who sat in our kitchen telling us what a good move it would be!!! We are now back in the UK and have a UK financial adviser looking into it for us but would be keen to keep up to date with what is happening from your side too.
Have just sent you the latest update and you are now on the circulation list.
I am a victim of CWM could you please let me now what course of action I need to persue. Could you please also place me on your circulation list. Regards, Steve.
Very sorry to hear you are a CWM victim. Will place you on the circulation list and will drop you an email to outline the recovery strategy.
Quite devastating. Please add me to your emailing list, thank you.
We too are victims of CWS, I would be very grateful if you could add us to your circulation list and anything else that may be available. Thank you.
So sorry to hear about everyone’s losses, I came close, but pulled out at the last minute as the advisor Richard Pearsley seemed too desperate & pushy.
I am now using Chase Buchanan.
A lucky escape Anita. Thankfully, Beacon sacked him yesterday. Good luck with everything.
As I said in an earlier message, it has all been quite devastating. As a result I am going to try and liquidate what is left of my fund, if that’s at all possible, to put to better use and remove any more risk. My question for you is, ‘would liquidating what is left of my pension jeopardise my chances of any compensation in the future?’ If I could liquidise my fund it would also allow me to contribute to the admirable efforts you and your team are doing.
Following the closure of CWM Momentum Pensions in Malta have been in touch with me giving me contact details but I cannot find information to get in touch with Panteon Pension Trustees in Gibraltar for my husband´s QROP
Darren Kirbys niece is the town Mayor in Henley on Thames
l am seventy years of age and living and still working in the Canaries, blissfully unaware until recently of my 60% depletion in my as yet untouched pension fund. Am l hoping against hope that Trafalgar or anyone in the finance industry with integrity can restore some professionalism and dignity to this distressing and unfortunately unsurprising situation, given the fame of ex pat parasites feeding off the innocence and vulnerability of fellow ex pats?
Kindest regards and respect for your efforts,
A very disillusioned Martin Powell
I’ve added you to the email list so you can get updates. You are right about the “parasites” bit – especially the life assurance companies – Old Mutual International (Quilter), Generali and SEB. They sit there like huge, ugly, sinister leeches and bleed the victims dry – right to the end. They make huge fortunes out of the scammers and allow people’s life savings to be invested in toxic structured notes from providers such as Commerzbank, Nomura and Leonteq, as well as high-risk, illiquid UCIS funds.
I am also a victim of the Antony Downs scam he came to my home and assured me my 300.000 pound life savings was safe with very very little risk and I would be able to draw the interest into a cash account he came on a few occasions to my home assuring me my money was safe and I will be able to enjoy the benefits what lies the man deserves to go to jail I have all his emails.
He didnot make me one penny in three years
Please keep me informed.
I am also a victim of C.W.M my agent was Dawn Kirby who advised me regarding my private pensions investing my money into QROPs. I have found out I have lost 60% of my investment can you put me on emailing list and keep me updated on any future developments regarding this matter.
Mr Mark Hampson
I am also a victim of this scam. Would you please add me to your list
Hi we are also victims of this scam and also seen by Dawn Kirby and Anthony Downs and lost 40% of our pension fund. Please add us to your list and keep us updated thanks
Alan Gorringe BA ACMA, Finance Director, Continental Wealth Management
was the deceitful rep of CWM that must be partly to blame for our losses,
Please add me to your list.
I was approached by Darren Kirby in 2010 and invested in a portfolio bond. Initially the investment looked promising but I was advised to diversify to reduce the risk. This involved several notes with a company named Leonteq. Again all okay to start then all began to lose but I was assured by Anthony Downs that there would be a recovery. Needless to say they all matured at a fraction of the original investment. I have incurred a loss of approx. £45000.
I was advised on the demise of CWM to contact Trafalgar. They would not speak to me on the matter of my losses.
I would like to remain in contact with any positive outcome.
Victor & Christine Ryan,
In 2010 we were living in Spain, we were approached by Anthony Downs & Neil Hathaway who told us if we let them take care of our pension our money would be so safe that we could tell our children how much they would receive on our demise. We continually stressed that we couldn’t afford to take any risk with our money, as it was all we had & was to last us the rest of ours lives. We had problems with them from the outset & phone call after phone call with one promise after another. We soon realised that they couldn’t deliver on their promises so we started recording phone conversations with Anthony Downs & Neil Hathaway & later with Graham Michaels, we still have those recordings. Virtually the same story as Richard Parker unfolded i.e., lots of comments regarding Leonteq, constant promises that the losses were only on paper & that the investments would recover nearer the maturity date, this of course never happened. We have lost around £100,000.
We were advised to contact Trafalgar house which we did & they were very keen to take on the role as our new Financial Advisors, until we asked them who were they governed by, their qualifications to be Financial advisors, & how to go about getting compensation for our pension losses, they then stopped all communication.
This of course has effected both our health’s with anxiety/stress attacks, incredible headaches, sleepless night’s & arguing (WE NEVER ARGUE!!!!)
We now live in England & we have a Financial Advisor & a solicitor trying to sort this out (without much success) but are using all their expertise & experience to determine some sort of strategy to proceed with. If you can help in any way that would be great (strength in numbers!!)
We would do virtually anything to recover part/all of our money. Our disgust & hate for CWM & especially their staff cannot be put into words.
Please send me anything you feel is relevant that might help.
Anthony Downes is working for an estate agents called ‘Ocean View Estates’ in Moraira…..
I have not received. Any. Info from cww i was signed up by Dawn Kirby. And now i seem at a lost as to who i should contact in order to recover my 60,000 investment ¿can you advise¿
My husband and i ‘invested’ our money too and i have stupidly only just realised what happened to our money. It’s not a lot compared to some of these poor people but i want to know if it worth pursuing, especially as we have to pay a solicitor to countersign our documents to prove who we are, incurring even more cost! Please contact us!
We are going to the solicitors on Thursday for a progress meeting. Will keep you posted.
I am in contact with stewart davis of momentum and mark Farnworth of trafalgar they are doing the best they can as a lot of my investments cant be moved until feb 2019 I lost approx. 65 percent of my pension funds. mark has said there is a case underway against cwm and there is a possibility of some monies maybe being recoverd . fingers crossed for everyone who was affected. please add me to your mailing list.
Hi my name is Mr Gordon McCabe, and I’m another victim of CWM. And i would like to know how i can get back my pension & The Loss of investments over the years.