EXPATS in Mallorca may have lost millions over the suspicious collapse of a foreign exchange firm being probed over ‘criminal activity’.
Dozens of victims have lost up to €400,000 each in life savings after Premier FX Limited was forced into administration by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
It comes after the firm – which operated from Palma, Portugal and London – suddenly stopped trading on July 27, following the death of director, Peter Rexstrew.
Since then hundreds of clients, many of them expats, have been left completely in the dark and unable to access their funds.
Victims have now formed an action group with nearly 200 members – many of them in the Balearics – demanding immediate answers.
One British expat, based in Palma, told the Olive Press she has no idea what has happened to the €30,000 she was holding with Premier FX.
“I had used them for many years and there were never any problems,” explained the 69-year-old, who asked to remain anonymous.
“I had transferred the money and was waiting for the exchange rate to improve.
“The next thing I knew, the money was gone. I feel sick about it,” added the pensioner.
“I just don’t understand why no other media organisations on the island are tackling this.”
In particular, she wants to know of the whereabouts of Nick Jones, the island’s former director, who has not been seen for over a month.
She is angry that he had sent out an assurance email of the company’s financial stability on June 20, just days after the death of Rexstrew.
However, the Olive Press understands that Jones, who worked out of an office on Palma’s prestigious Calle La Rambla, has also lost ‘a substantial amount of money’ from the collapse, according to a close friend.
The Portals-based expat friend, who has also lost money, insisted Jones had been advised to ‘keep a low profile’ after he was ‘lambasted’.
“I know him closely and he said all employees were in total shock with the news.
“He is not in hiding he has been advised to keep a low profile while the investigation is ongoing. He had no access to the main accounts.”
She added: “All this is very distressing for him and his family. He has been completely lambasted. I understand people are angry but there have been some really nasty comments.
“It is quite clear that Peter’s children were taking over the business, not Nick.”
Another victim, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Olive Press she has lost a staggering €400,000 due to the collapse.
The UK-based businesswoman, who lived for decades in Portugal, has made three monthly transactions with Premier FX for 12 years.
Despite being a friend of former boss Rexstrew, who also lived in the Algarve, she was given no warning of the collapse.
“I simply found out when I tried to make a transaction but no one would answer the phone. I then emailed and I received this automatic reply saying they had ceased trading and there’d be no further transactions.
“I immediately smelt a rat,” she added.
When she called the UK’s Action Fraud, an operator explained he knew nothing about it.
“I’ve been stuck for two months without that money which I need for my business.
“It’s not just affecting people buying holiday homes, it is also affecting business owners, who can’t pay staff or clients.”
Most victims had been promised by Premier FX that their money was being held in ‘segregated, personal accounts’ with Barclays, but administrators now think this was not the case.
It is also believed that many clients were still permitted to make financial transfers via Barclays even after the company had ceased trading.
The FCA has since discovered that the company, set up in 2006, was operating without full authorisation.
It was forced into administration after being unable to pay debts and was ‘cash flow insolvent’ following Rexstrew’s sudden death, leaving his two children as joint directors.
Victims have so far received very little information from the company’s appointed administrators and Barclays and fear they will never get their money back.
“It’s a real mindfield and like banging your head against a brick wall,” added another British retiree, who has lost money.
Premier FX and Barclays failed to comment in time for press.
An FCA spokesperson told the Olive Press: “We are very concerned that there was criminal activity taking place at Premier FX in relation to missing funds.
“We are investigating the business and will take action against any individuals we find to have broken the law in order to return money to customers of the firm.”