Olive Press Article on Continental Wealth Management

A SLICE OF THE ACTION by Joshua Parfitt of the Olive Press

EXCLUSIVE: Expats who lost millions to dodgy finance firm CWM fear action group boss may be scamming them too.  It is a sad fact that people who have been victims of a scam will never fully trust anybody ever again.  One thousand people once trusted the slick advisers at CWM with their life savings – and around £50 million was destroyed in the process.  I am now in the front line, and am often the object of mistrust, doubt or – as this journalist puts it – outright fear.  That is the nature of this matter – and when it happens I stand up and deal with it.  The Olive Press journo, Mr. Parfitt, gave me the right to reply to this piece of “journalism” – and this is it.  In bold.

Angry expats pursuing lost millions in the CWM financial drama have hit another roadblock.  There is no roadblock.  It takes time to put together a viable route to recovering the lost funds.  It isn’t easy and it isn’t cheap – if it were, then everybody would be doing it.  We have indeed hit several major setbacks: OMI agreed to settle in May 2018 and we worked out a payment plan to amortise the redress payments over a workable period.  However, OMI reneged on the deal.  We are now putting in place plans to take legal action against OMI and the other life offices and have now secured litigation funding to deal with this.  We also had plans for legal action in Spain, with a law firm in Marbella.  But despite our best efforts, could not obtain adverse costs insurance (to protect the claimants against the eventuality that we would lose and would end up paying the other sides’ costs).  So we now have litigation funding and are using another law firm on the Costa Blanca and this litigation will be launched on Monday 29th April.

Sources told the Olive Press a woman supposedly fighting their claims is in fact taking money while in a year and a half has not managed to win a cent of compensation.  Of course the “sources” remain anonymous, while I do not.  But that is to be expected.  I know who some of the “sources” are and they include CWM clients as well as – probably – a firm of ambulance chasers (a claims management company) and some of the advisers.  But, despite the malicious actions of the “sources” who are CWM victims, I will still represent them and help them recover their losses. 

It comes as Denia court finally began proceedings against CWM’s former directors, including boss Darren Kirby, who we revealed had fled to the UK, this month.  He hasn’t fled to the UK.  He is in Denia.  And is meeting me week commencing 29th April during my meetings in Moraira with our lead cases and lawyer.

But now disaffected investors have accused expat Angie Brooks, director of a Spain-based company Pension Life, of abuse of trust – a claim she denies.  It is interesting that these so-called “disaffected investors” are apparently happy to discuss their accusations with a freebie magazine’s journalist (although not happy to be named), but haven’t told me directly of their disaffection.  They all have my email address – but if they report their disaffection anonymously to a journalist, how can I put things right or reassure them?  The answer, of course, is that I can’t.  So this calls into question whether these so-called investors either exist at all, or actually want to be reassured.

It comes after she took on scores of CWM casualties in 2017, charging them £1,500 for a year’s service and a £750 annual retainer.  Every member was free to take their own independent action; pay their own legal fees and decline to join Pension Life.  I have never solicited members and every person has joined knowing full well what the fees were and also how long and challenging the redress avenue was likely to be.  Most solicitors taking on a new client in Spain would charge a minimum of 3,000 EUR plus VAT and then would then charge on an hourly basis thereafter.

One member of her Pension Life action group said he was left “desperate and depressed” as he could not continue to front the huge fees.  And yet this member has not told me?  If this supposed member is also desperate to get his money back, is he therefore going to pursue another route?  And how much will this cost him?  And how irresponsible was it of Mr. Parfitt not to tell me that one of my members was too desperate and depressed to tell me?  Mr. Parfitt has claimed to be trying to get hold of me since the beginning of April, and yet I don’t have a single email from him (either on my Pension Life email or my personal one – both of which are freely available).

Now, the Olive Press has discovered that a UK debt collection company has been appointed to pursue a £600k loan taken out by a company for which Brooks is still active director.  This is not true.  There is no debt collection company – there is an insolvency practitioner.  And this firm – Wilkins Kennedy – was appointed several years ago.

The liquidator, Louise Brittan, from Wilkins Kennedy, has worked on cases involving politicians Jonathan Aitken, Neil Hamilton and singer Kerry Katona, and is now chasing Brooks for the money.  Wilkins Kennedy has appointed solicitors in London and I am dealing with them direct and have been for some years – as is my duty as a director of the company.  Reigate Town Club was wound up on 10th October 2011 but I have never resigned as a director as I take my obligations seriously and if there is ever any chance of getting any of the money owed to the company by the former directors, I will be eager to do everything possible to help bring them to justice.

The company, Reigate Town Club Ltd – which has not filed accounts since 2009 – owed £617,761 to the unnamed debtor, according to the UK’s official Companies House.  This journalist has got his knickers in a bit of a twist here.  There is a director’s loan account which is comprised of a sum of money owed by former directors Stewart and Marc Simpson to the company, and a sum of money owed by the company to me.  The Simpsons owe the company a total of £617,760.83.  The company owes me £240,050.36 – plus £40k approximately I spent trying (abortively) to sue the Simpsons.  The company was wound up by HMRC because they taxed the Simpsons’ directors’ loans and there wasn’t enough money to pay the tax (as it was all in the Simpsons’ trousers).  These are all facts which are in the public domain – so perhaps Mr. Parfitt might like to study how to become an investigative journalist – and not just listen to idle tittle tattle by “disaffected” unnamed people.

Another of Brooks’ companies, Thames Trust Ltd, was ordered to close by the UK government in 2016 following an insolvency investigation.  Thames Trustees was not my company.  I took over as a director of Thames Trustees, Imperial Trustees and Highgate Trustees in 2014 and was removed immediately by the scammers.  Thames and Imperial were companies set up by Stephen Ward of Premier Pension Solutions to act as the trustees/administrators of two fraudulent pension schemes – Capita Oak and Westminster .  Both these schemes were placed in the hands of Dalriada Trustees by the Pensions Regulator and are now under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.  The companies had been directed by a string of “puppet” directors who had all headed for the hills when the Insolvency Service started investigating.  Without a director of the trustee companies, the scheme members were in danger of facing unauthorized payment tax charges as the schemes would cease to be registered pension schemes without a trustee (on top of losing the whole pensions as the assets were arguably worthless).  Thames Trustees was wound up by the Official Receiver on 11th July 2016. 

In alarming circumstances, it was found that the company received “significant commissions” without the knowledge of its clients.  I don’t know where the journo gets this information from.  The company shows zero income in the accounts on Companies House and owes £130,071 to its creditors.  If Mr. Parfitt has credible evidence (as opposed to gossip from his unnamed sources) about undisclosed income, he should report it to the Serious Fraud Office (who will, of course, want to know who his sources are).

A British legal source told the Olive Press that Brooks, who lives in Granada, has “zero licenses, regulatory status or legal entity in Spain”.  I am not practicing in any capacity that requires a license and I don’t have a company registered in Spain.

Another source demanded to know where the “huge retainer fees” have gone.  There were no “huge” retainer fees.  This journo really must learn not to rely so heavily on unnamed “sources” as this discredits the provenance of the source information and is just lazy journalism.  The first law firm I was using in Marbella was charging 3,000 EUR plus VAT per client – plus a 30% success fee.  Another law firm quoted me 75,000 EUR plus VAT just to look at the case.  By comparison, the Pension Life membership fees are very modest.

The demands come after the Olive Press reported that three victims, who collectively lost “hundreds of thousands” to CWM, are having their case processed by Denia Court.  What “demands”?  The journo has mentioned one demand from an anonymous “legal” source.  There is no connection between the action in the Denia Court and the action I am taking.  I have no idea who is taking the action in Denia.

We revealed that Kirby failed to turn up after other directors appeared in court last month.  I wonder if Mr. Parfitt has actually seen any copies of the court documents or whether he is, again, relying on hearsay emanating from his mysterious unnamed sources.

Brooks confirmed to the Olive Press that she is “not a licensed solicitor” (and I have never claimed to be – I am a tax adviser) but said the unpaid loan (at Reigate Town Club) was linked to two previous directors before she took her position.  She said she has “nothing to do” with fraudulent practice at Thames Trust Ltd (Thames Trustees) and only has one tax return overdue for ACA Pension Life Ltd.  She added her fees were “far below” what other licensed solicitors charge and said the lack of legal action was due to significant challenges in finding a suitable legal practice to take on the case.  The Olive Press continues to investigate.  Does it?  Since speaking to the journo late last night, he has asked no further questions and requested no further evidence.  I asked the journo why he hadn’t written anything about the huge amounts of money lost by the victims of the CWM group – and the appallingly bleak future so many of them are facing due to having had their life savings decimated.  But he didn’t seem to be particularly interested in that aspect of this case.

Contact us at the newsdesk@theolivepress.es if you can help.  Help to do what?  Help Mr. Parfitt become a credible reporter?  I really do wish him the best of luck with his journalistic career – but writing half-truths and quoting anonymous sources without credibility is never going to lift him out of the freebie rag ranks and into the realms of serious professional journalism.

The CWM story is a sickeningly fascinating summary of what is so terribly wrong with financial services in Spain, Europe and beyond.  Mr. Parfitt could have used his talents and energies to help put this right.  He could have focused on the parties who engaged with the systematic destruction of £50,000,000 – instead of spinning half-truths and idle gossip into an inaccurate and untruthful piece of very poor journalism.  This piece benefits nobody – and does nothing to help the victims get their money back.  Shame on you Mr. Parfitt.  You may have tickled a few bitter people – but you have entirely failed to expose the root of the problem: unscrupulous insurance companies who manipulated and abused consumers, advisers and trustees alike.

There will, of course, be a few people who will be delighted by Mr. Parfitt’s piece. 

I can think of one little bald guy with bitten fingernails who stinks of fish and works for a claims management company.  Ditto several rogue (unregulated) advisers who have picked off orphaned clients and taken them from the frying pan and into the fire.  I have no doubt they will all be buying you a beer or two in the next few days.

3 thoughts on “Olive Press Article on Continental Wealth Management”

  1. Laurence Sutton

    Worryingly if this “reporting” convinces more people that pension life is not producing the results quick enough (knowing perhaps it could be years) and is not the outfit they thought it was they may stop supporting it. Is there a critical mass of members for this worthy venture to keep going? Everyone is looking for the quick fix which no win no fee lawyers are happy to suggest is possible, sadly.

    1. Oh for a magic wand! But if the Spanish regulators and courts show the rest of the world how it is done, that would be a very good thing for financial services internationally.

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