Harlequin pension saver victims hit with financial double whammy

Published:  4 Nov at 6 PM
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Scammed retirement savers whose cash was lost in the Harlequin property crash are now facing up to ten years’ continuing charges by their pension providers.

Affected investors who were persuaded to take out QROPS and SIPPS-wrapped products have not only lost every penny of their savings, but are being charged £500 per annum by the pension providers themselves. Ostensibly referred to as management charges, the totals taken by providers will add some £17 million to the estimated losses.

Thousands of pension savers are affected, with the product providers’ terms for management charges extending up to 10 years from the time the investment was taken out. Lawyers representing a group of savers told the press that the providers themselves have valued the holdings at just £1.

Some 6,000 Harlequin investors have been identified to date, with 56 per cent having been sold a QROPS or SIPPS. None were told by their FAs that their schemes were unregulated by HMRC, meaning that redress via the UK’s Financial Services Compensation Scheme or the Financial Ombudsman Service is unavailable.

The so-called property investments touted by rogue FAs in the UK and overseas were focused on villa and condo developments in the Caribbean and Brazil. An offshoot of the company existed in Thailand, selling off-plan homes and condos to unsuspecting expat retirees as an investment via personal pension transfers.

At the present time, the vast majority of expat savers, including those with Lifetime and Guardian SIPPS, are unable to recover money locked in the frozen investments. Both companies are still receiving management fees, and the IFAs who mis-sold the unregulated products have, of course, received their up-front commissions.

It seems that the pension provider companies neglected to apply due diligence, leaving devastated retirement savers attempting to chase their FAs for compensation. Many if not most of the salesmen involved will have relocated to overseas fresh fields and pastures new, and are unlikely to be found by claimants as a result.
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