Back in 2015, Action Fraud warned pension holders and investors against putting any money into airport car parking schemes.
Pension freedoms had just been introduced by George Osbourne and co, and unregulated Sipp (self-invested personal pension) investment and mis-selling activity was rife. At the time, members of the public were being approached via cold calls with high-risk investment schemes touted as high-return opportunities.
One such scheme was airport parking. Investments involved people buying leases on car parking spaces near to large city airports such as Gatwick and Glasgow, which would be rented out to airport passengers for a profit.
These investments were unregulated by the FCA and as such, deemed as high risk.
The Park First fiasco
In October 2019, the FCA started legal proceedings against a company called Park First, its directors, and a number of companies connected to the group. Several of these companies had been placed into administration back in 2017.
According to the FCA’s website, the Park First scheme involved an illegal collective investment scheme established to operate car park investments using funds from members of the investing public.
It has been reported that these companies failed because they did not have the funds to pay back the investors who chose the “buyback” option offered to them when they invested, which enabled them to sell back their space after several years.
Glyn Taylor, solicitor for APJ, commented: “As always, these schemes were touted to regular savers as guaranteed high-return investment opportunities when in reality, they were very very risky, highly unstable and unsuitable for anyone who could not afford to lose the money – especially people that had secure pension pots.
“According to the FCA, the Park First scheme raised approximately £230m from an incredible 4,500 investors over the last few years. Investments in its airport car parking schemes were sold to hard-working pension holders via Sipps, and promoted using misleading or false statements that promised high returns.
“The FCA alleges that Park First and co had no proper basis for these statements and that they were aware that the valuations were based on unrealistic returns.”
Scammers join the story
To add insult to injury, scammers posing as part of the administration team for Park First’s connected companies were reportedly targeting investors, offering to buy back their parking spaces in an attempt to part them with even more money.
Park First is yet another company to come under fire for touting unregulated Sipp investment opportunities to unsuspecting British savers. Other such schemes over the years have included companies such as Ethical Forestry Ltd, ArgoEnergy and Store First, which dealt with sustainable tree plantations in Costa Rica, green oil schemes in Cambodia and storage pod schemes, respectively.
Car parking schemes
Sipp providers, unregulated introducers and sometimes the firms themselves targeted pension holders in an attempt to persuade them to invest large sums of their pension pots into these unregulated schemes. In reality, these investments were only really suitable for experienced investors who had money to lose. Most of them are now in liquidation and in some cases, are being investigated for fraud.
Glyn continued: “We are dealing with hundreds of claims where hard-working Brits have lost huge sums of money to these unscrupulous advisers and firms. We’re now working with them to seek compensation so they can feel secure in their retirement.
“Mis-selling for pensions is the financial scandal of the decade, and we are urging people to get in touch if they think they may have been mis-sold an investment by a cold call, or a pushy salesperson who bamboozled them into parting with money with the promise of high returns.
“We advise any saver to take Sipp investment opportunities very seriously, and always do their due diligence when investing any money into schemes, especially if they are sitting on a relatively secure pension pot. Getting impartial advice and doing extensive research is always the best option. It is also worth highlighting that, as of January 2019, cold calling relating to pensions is illegal for UK-based firms.”
APJ has helped pension holders claim back millions of pounds from Sipp providers who have mis-sold them unsuitable schemes or invested their money in fraudulent schemes. If you think you have been mis-sold a Sipp, get in touch with our experienced advisers who can help.