An accountant who acted as a pension trustee and administrator has pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud for transferring more than £280,000 of pension funds into his own businesses and investments.
An investigation conducted by The Pensions Regulator (TPR) found that 66-year-old Roger William Bessent took money from the Focusplay Retirement Benefit Scheme; this was the pension scheme for accountancy firm Gleeson Bessent, where he acted as director. Bessent was also director at professional pension trustee firm Gleeson Bessent Trustees, which governed the Focusplay Retirement Benefit Scheme.
These roles enabled Bessent to gain access to the pension scheme’s funds, which he then converted into loans to support his personal business agenda. This included using more than £120,000 to buy a house for personal investment, to pay tax bills for Gleeson Bessent and the business of a client, to subsidise the running costs of a children’s nursery and to provide start-up investment capital for a relative’s physiotherapy business.
Bessent further made official meeting minutes and records for the pension scheme, falsely listing other trustees as being present at meetings.
So far, approximately £80,000 of the total has been repaid.
Bessent pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud by abuse of position and to two counts of making employer-related investments by way of prohibited loans at Preston Crown Court on 27 February 2019. TPR has asked for three other counts of employer-related investments to be left to lie on file.
Fraud by abuse of position is an offence under section one of the Fraud Act 2006; this carries a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment. Making a prohibited employer-related investment is illegal under section 40(5) of the Pensions Act 1995 and has a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment.
This is the first time that TPR has prosecuted for these offences.
Bessent, who is based in Lancashire, is scheduled to be sentenced on 29 March 2019.
Nicola Parish, executive director of frontline regulation at TPR, said: “Bessent used the pension scheme as his personal piggy bank, transferring out hundreds of thousands of pounds for his own personal benefit and to keep his other businesses going.
“As an accountant, Bessent was someone that people would turn to for advice and put their trust in. He abused that trust and used his position as trustee to defraud the scheme for his benefit and the benefit of his friends and family.
“Trustees play a vital role in protecting the benefits of members. We will not tolerate the abuse of such as important job.”
Separate from TPR’s prosecution, Bessent is also facing legal action from the Insolvency Service. He has pleaded guilty to one count of acting as a director of a limited company while disqualified. He will be sentenced for this on 29 March 2019 also.