Former sports centre director receives fine for withholding pensions information

fine withholding pensions informationA former director of 1066 Target Sports in St Leonards, East Sussex, has received a £15,000 fine for withholding legally-required pensions information.

The Pensions Regulator formally requested information from Lee Bartholomew on 10 June 2020 as part of an investigation into allegations of fraudulent evasion relating to employee pension contributions. It found that Bartholomew had intentionally failed to provide the required information by the deadline of 8 July 2020, and that he had suppressed the material without reasonable excuse.

As a result, the regulator stated that it planned to prosecute him for fraudulent evasion of his duty to pay money deducted from the salaries of his employees as pension contributions into a workplace pension scheme within a prescribed period, under section 49 of the Pensions Act 1995.

At a hearing at Lewes Crown Court on Friday 26 April, Bartholomew pleaded guilty under section 77(5) of the Pensions Act 2004 to intentionally and without reasonable excuse suppress documents he was required to produce under section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004. In a further hearing on Friday 31 May, he was fined £7,500 and ordered to pay costs of £7,500.

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In his ruling, Judge Mooney said: “You took the decision to suppress, i.e. deliberately not provide, documentation you should have done because you knew to do so would alert the regulator that you weren’t paying money where you should have done. This caused a degree of distress to the people affected, as the money they thought was going into their pensions didn’t. It caused them real concern.”

Joe Turner, head of automatic enrolment compliance and enforcement at The Pensions Regulator, added: “This case sends a clear warning that we do not hesitate to prosecute companies or individuals if they refuse to give us the right information when requested and/or try to frustrate our aim to protect pension savers. We attempted to use our civil powers to put things right in this case, but this was ignored. Anyone refusing to comply with our requests for information without good reason should take note that they could find themselves in court and with a criminal conviction.”