FORMER employees of a British-run financial scam have testified the company’s boss knowingly put up to €35 million of client’s pension pots into high-risk investments.
The staff from Continental Wealth Management (CWM), based in Denia until its collapse in 2017, blamed the boss of Darren Kirby for destroying the hopes and dreams of 750 expats around Spain and beyond.
It comes as 17 former CWM clients have begun a private prosecution in Denia Court against CWM, seeking to press charges of fraud, disloyal administration and falsifying commercial documents.
In what is Spain’s largest ‘legal scrutiny of British-run financial scams’ to date, the former employees – Anthony Downs, Neil Hathaway and Dean Stogsdill – testified that each of the 17 claimants lost their pension pots through ‘high-risk investments’.
Court transcripts passed to the Olive Press reveal how the former advisors said moving funds from low-risk to high-risk required client authorisation –but claimed boss Kirby was responsible for obtaining consent.
They added in separate declarations on February 24 and 25 that the 17 claimants would have been aware of the implications – but claimants maintain they knew nothing of the toxic investments.
One of the victims, former Blackpool bus driver Les Hutchings, 67, lost nearly his entire €117,000 private pension when it ended up in such high-risk portfolios – he claims without his knowledge.
Another is widow Karen O’Hagan, who lost €72,000 of her RBS pension in similar circumstances.
It came after she was told by CWM staff that transferring the money was the only way to protect it for her two young children if she passed away.
Kirby failed to attend the hearing on Monday, February 24.
Meanwhile, Smart was able to delay attending the hearing until next month due to damage to a restaurant she manages during Storm Gloria.
Angela Brooks, who is leading the private prosecution, told the Olive Press the case will set a major ‘precedent’ across Europe.
“It’s a disgrace that it’s taken a Spanish lawyer in Spain and a Spanish criminal judge to recognise the wickedness of actions taken by all parties concerned.
“There is no precedent for this. It is going to shame all the other jurisdictions throughout Europe and beyond into acknowledging what many offshore advisors have been doing for years.
“The scale of this case has made the courts sit up and take notice.”
Smart has previously denied ever dealing with clients or having anything to do with the running of CWM other than promotion online and in the media.
Darren Kirby could not be contacted for comment.