Office manager convicted of withholding information in £13.75m pension scam investigation
Friday 7 July 2017
The former office manager of a company at the centre of a multi-million pound scam inquiry has been convicted of refusing to provide information relevant to the investigation.
Karen Turgut worked at Friendly Pensions Ltd, which is the subject of an investigation by The Pensions Regulator (TPR) in connection with a suspected £13.75 million scam.
Ms Turgut, of Bromley, Kent, refused to give information to TPR and failed to supply documents, despite being required to by law.
She was ordered to pay more than £4,000 at Brighton Magistrates’ Court after being convicted of refusing to provide information and documents required under section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004 without a reasonable excuse.
The case is the third criminal conviction secured by TPR.
TPR staff wanted Ms Turgut to answer questions and hand over documents about the activities of Friendly Pensions, specifically about emails she had sent and received while working there.
She was asked to assist the investigation voluntarily, but when she failed to respond she was served with a notice requiring her to provide information to TPR. The notice – known as a section 72 notice – warned that failing to comply with it would be a criminal offence. Ms Turgut still refused to co-operate, without giving a good reason.
Ms Turgut did not turn up at Brighton Magistrates’ Court for the hearing on Wednesday (5 July). The court tried her in her absence and she was convicted of one offence of refusing to provide information and one offence of refusing to produce documents required under section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004 without a reasonable excuse, contrary to section 77 of the Act.
The magistrates said Ms Turgut had been given plenty of opportunities to speak to TPR staff but had simply chosen to ignore them.
They ordered her to pay a £4,000 fine, £550 costs and a £170 victim surcharge.
Ms Turgut continues to be in breach of the section 72 notice. TPR can bring further criminal proceedings, with the threat of further fines, until she complies.
Mike Birch, TPR’s Director of Case Management, said: “We will not hesitate to prosecute those who prevent us gathering the data we require for our investigations.
“Karen Turgut’s refusal to co-operate with our team was flagrant, without any excuse, and wasted our time and resources.
“Information notices are a key enforcement tool for TPR to help us tackle those abusing the system. Refusing to comply with a legal request from The Pensions Regulator will not be tolerated.”
- TPR has the power under section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004 to require pension schemes, employers and third parties to provide us with information and documents relevant to our statutory functions.
- Failure to provide such information is a criminal offence which can result in an unlimited fine. Additionally, those involved can suffer serious reputational damage from being successfully prosecuted for non-compliance with the law. Businesses could also face further action from their professional body.
- TPR is the regulator of work-based pension schemes in the UK. Our statutory objectives are: to protect members’ benefits; to reduce the risk of calls on the Pension Protection Fund (PPF); to promote, and to improve understanding of, the good administration of work-based pension schemes; to maximise employer compliance with automatic enrolment duties; and to minimise any adverse impact on the sustainable growth of an employer (in relation to the exercise of the regulator’ s functions under Part 3 of the Pensions Act 2004 only).
James Glover 01273 662098