Sadly, Spain – the leading British expat destination in Europe – is rife with scams and scammers.  The Costa Blanca, Costa del Sol, Costa Brava and everything in between are crawling with what the Spanish regulator calls “chiringuitos” – literally “bar flies”.  And you can see why: wherever there is food – whether fresh or rotting – they congregate in large swarms.  They are not proud – they will nibble your chips while still on your fork; sip your sangria off your straw; suck the sweat off your shirt and crawl into your underpants to see if there is anything tasty in there.

Pension Life Blog - COSTA SCAM - THE COST OF "ADVICE" IN SPAIN - costa chiringuitos costa scammers

At least the flies have a little more dignity and respect.

Becoming an expat in Spain is fraught with difficulty.  First, you have to learn to drive on the wrong side of the road, then you have to learn Spanish – or Valenciano or Catalan (you can see why so few Brits bother).  Then you have to come to terms with the heat: long, hot summers with temperatures well up into the 30s and 40s are fine if all you have to do is lounge beside the pool, drink beer and plan your next outing to the local chippy.  But if you are working, being too hot all day is no fun.

Pension Life Blog - COSTA SCAM - THE COST OF "ADVICE" IN SPAIN - costa chiringuitos costa scammersMany Brits are naturally suspicious of the Spanish and seek out British professionals whenever they can: builders, plumbers, pool maintainers, car mechanics and manicurists.  And you can understand why – most Brits can barely manage things like “my loo won’t flush”, “the pool’s turned green”, “our car won’t start (or stop)” and “I want nails like Kim Kardashian”.  So when it comes to “how do I invest my life savings” they don’t really stand a chance.

The problem is that most Brits in Spain are outside their comfort zone.  They are in a foreign country and so they cosy up to other Brits because that makes them feel safe – and they don’t quite trust the natives anyway.  Quite apart from the language barrier, Spanish bureaucracy can seem somewhat intimidating and, well, foreign.  So when it comes to managing their life savings and retirement provisions, the Brits either actively seek out British advisory firms or feel relieved and happy when they are cold-called by them.

There’s no shortage of “advisers” – they lurk everywhere: bars, supermarkets, golf and sailing clubs.  They are typically charming, well-dressed, friendly and fall over themselves to sell financial advice or what they call “wealth management”.  Only that isn’t what they are selling: they are actually selling products.  These products are basically insurance bonds (that you don’t need) and investments (that you don’t want).  And huge fees for selling you things that you neither need nor want.

Pension Life Blog - COSTA SCAM - THE COST OF "ADVICE" IN SPAIN - costa chiringuitos costa scammers

With appealing adverts and websites showing happy, good-looking couples with nice teeth, expensive yachts and fast cars. These chiringuitos sell the idea that somehow they can make people wealthy and happy in retirement.

The reality is that the chiringuitos make themselves rich by fleecing their victims and destroying their funds.

Before the industry cries “unfair, unfair!!”, let me just mention a couple of examples that prove my point:

Premier Pension Solutions (Costa Blanca) – Ark £27 million; Evergreen £10 million; Capita Oak £10 million; London Quantum £3 million

Continental Wealth Management (Costa Blanca) – £100 million

That’s at least a couple of thousand people financially ruined.  There are plenty more examples:

* How rogue ‘financial advisers’ in Spain stung British pensioners for millions


* Shocking Expat Financial Scams – Don’t Become A Victim


* British expats, your financial adviser may well be a bandit


* Spain still hub for expat financial fraud


There’s quite a wide spectrum – ranging from out and out scammers like Premier Pension Solutions and Continental Wealth Management, to firms that are just plain dodgy, expensive, dishonest and irresponsible.  You may ask what the difference is: in practice NONE.  Both ends of the spectrum cause damage to the funds – and distress to the victims.

Let’s look at the reality and examine what many advisory firms (chiringuitos) do and don’t do.  We will take the don’ts first:

  • they don’t disclose all the fees up front
  • they don’t disclose how much commission they will earn from your funds
  • they don’t respect your risk profile – and can invest you in high-risk stuff when you are a low-risk investor
  • they don’t tell you when the answer to the question “do I need a QROPS” is “no”
  • they don’t respect the basic principles of diversity, risk, liquidity and cost
  • they don’t disclose whether the firm is regulated
  • they don’t disclose whether they are qualified

and now what they do:

  • they transfer your pension into a QROPS whether that is in your interests or not
  • they put your funds into an insurance bond even though you don’t need one
  • they invest you in what they have already decided they want to sell you – irrespective of whether that is what you need
  • they churn your investments to maximise their commissions
  • they lie about your losses (only “paper” losses)
  • they stick you in an expensive insurance bond which will cost you a fortune to get out of

Pension Life Blog - COSTA SCAM - THE COST OF "ADVICE" IN SPAIN - costa chiringuitos costa scammersThere are, of course, multiple variations on this theme – including things like flogging you whatever fund pays them the most commission that month; flogging you their own fund; flogging you your own grandmother – twice.  They flog funds with entry fees, exit fees, ongoing fees and lousy performance.  Basically, these advisers have no interest in keeping their clients long term – they are only interested in the initial fees.  Once the client realised they have been fleeced, he can take his business elsewhere – unless the firm is Blevins Franks, in which case the victim is stuck with them.

I am often asked the question: “are there any firms you can recommend which won’t rip me off?”.  The answer to this question is a resounding “maybe”.

There are a few I can categorically recommend against:

Callaghan Financial Services – unregulated

Blevins Franks – unscrupulous

Abbey Wealth – unregulated and unscrupulous

Seagate Wealth – unmentionable


  1. There’s an inconsistency in the blogs on this site. One writer is writing good informative, well researched factual blogs and the other is churning out same old garbage and labels everyone who expresses an opinion – factual I might add – different from theirs, a troll!

    However, I like this article. I want to add one more fact , regarding one of the companies named above – Blacktower.

    Aktiva Wealth Management – not by the way Spanish – but a Czech Republic company founded 22nd May 2014 and not registered with CNB until 5th May 2015 was, in early 2015, using the license of Blacktower, Netherlands (at the material time trading as Wordlwide Broker Network). Aktiva changed it’s name in June 2015 to Square Mile International Financial and then again to Michalska Holding s.r.o in Nov 2017 – https://drive.google.com/open?id=1BHODVw5ZozsdMYNGOtpSNZ8etzxhPBSA

    Aktiva and then Square Mile were owned by the well known, gruesome twosome, John Ferguson and David Vilka – the former ducking out of the company in Nov 2017. These two worked in tandem with the likes of Phillip Nunn & Patrick McCreesh – owners of Aspinal Chase and Blackmore Global – the opaque unregulated fund well documented on this site. These “chiringuitos” persuaded countless innocent victims, including yours truly, to transfer sizeable proportions of their pensions into Nunn & McCreesh’s own fund Blackmore Global, regardless of people’s best interest and purely for their own enrichment, as evidenced by an email from Ferguson written in 2015 – https://pension-life.com/not-so-square-mile-and-far-from-lilly-white/

    The Dutch regulator has advised me Blacktower, Netherlands licence was restricted to insurance mediation only. The Dutch regulator also advised me that it is not permitted for one company to use the licence of another for their own activities and I can find no evidence of any legal tie between Aktiva and Blacktower. The Letter of Authority they were using in early 2015 fraudulently states Aktiva were registered with the Czech National Bank but that was not true until 5th May 2015 and my pension provider quite happily ignored this, rubber stamped the transfer and handed over a considerable amount of my money.

    Nunn & McCreesh have since tried to “bury” Blackmore Global, the unaudited, unregulated opaque fund and now focus purely on “real estate” in an attempt to present themselves as respectable. They are however offering unregulated mini bonds to fund this real estate venture. Their business model, described in their recently published annual report for Blackmore Bond plc is in my opinion very high risk and not to mention, the company they have teamed up with to promote these unregulated bonds, also has a history of failed ventures. [Aside, one of the recently appointed directors of Blackmore I knew from 2004-ish when I worked at Cognisco and he was a director there. How he went from a respectable IT business to team up with Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber is beyond me].

    Nunn & McCreesh just can’t bring themselves to go the whole hog and set up a respectable, regulated businesses. Nor have they ever been willing to open up the poor relation of the group, Blackmore Global to scrutiny with an independent audit and let us all see what’s inside – flies on a pile of excrement is my guess.

    I have no idea at the present what Vilka and Ferguson are up to unless others who have done “business” with them recently come forward and tell their story but I hold firmly to the old saying regarding leopards and spots!

  2. My experience denotes that Devere should be included in this article .Not only were the funds totally unsuitable for a pension because they could not provide a regular income of any worth, having to be encashed to provide an income and were done so using my falsified signature. The pension application itself was ignored in entirety with the Advice Report being used 6.5 months after expiry.
    Keep away from them and their trustee in Malta STM

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