EX­PATS HIT BY FIRM CLO­SURE

Hun­dreds of Costa Blanca clients fear they have lost their life sav­ings

Costa Blanca News (South Edition) - - Front Page - By Jack Troughton news@cb­news.es

HUN­DREDS of clients of Con­ti­nen­tal Wealth Man­age­ment (CWM) fear they have lost life sav­ings af­ter the Costa Blanca fi­nan­cial ad­vice com­pany crashed.

Cus­tomers along the Costa Blanca were said to be dev­as­tated, highly dis­tressed and even sui­ci­dal af­ter CWM sud­denly closed on Septem­ber 29 and its web­site was taken down.

The com­pany’s plush of­fices ad­ja­cent to La Sella Golf Re­sort in Dé­nia – once home to high pro­file celebrity CWM golf days - re­mained locked and de­serted this week.

The com­pany’s ‘owner’ and driv­ing force Dar­ren Kirby is be­lieved to have fled abroad; it is un­der­stood he has trav­elled to Aus­tralia.

And so­cial me­dia has come alive with an­gry clients try­ing to dis­cover what has hap­pened to their money and pen­sions af­ter CWM closed.

The com­pany claimed to have 500 clients and some £50 mil­lion un­der man­age­ment.

The first hint some­thing was wrong for many clients was an email sent on Septem­ber 29 say­ing: “Dear client, it is with im­mense sor­row that I have to in­form you that Con­ti­nen­tal Wealth Man­age­ment will be clos­ing to­day” – be­fore ad­vis­ing in­vestors to con­tact the reg­u­la­tor about poli­cies.

CWM claimed to have 26 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence ‘in wealth man­age­ment so­lu­tions on all as­pects of off­shore and on­shore in­vest­ment strate­gies for their clients’; deal­ing in in­vest­ments, pen­sions and QROPS.

How­ever, it al­legedly used cold call­ing and a ‘hard sell’ strat­egy to find new busi­ness, with a call cen­tre in Orba and a sales team op­er­at­ing along the Costa Blanca.

Fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the com­pany there have also been al­le­ga­tions of mis-sell­ing and fraud; and it is claimed client sig­na­tures were forged on deal­ing in­struc­tions.

Angie Brooks of Pen­sion Life said: “From 2013 on­wards, CWM in­vested hun­dreds of low to medium risk clients’ in­vest­ments in high risk, illiq­uid as­sets. CWM com­pletely ig­nored the suit­abil­ity is­sue and paid no heed to the clients’ pref­er­ence for safe low risk in­vest­ments.

“Clients sig­na­tures were re­peat­edly copied and once the losses started to ap­pear, CWM as­sured them that there was noth­ing to worry about and they were ‘only pa­per losses’.”

She said money was moved into pro­fes­sional ‘in­vestoronly’ in­vest­ments un­suit­able for CWM clients.

Trafal­gar In­ter­na­tional, CWM’s Ger­man-based reg­u­la­tor, Mo­men­tum Pen­sions in Malta, and Old Mu­tual In­ter­na­tional, the bond sup­plier, are try­ing to lo­cate funds to put into a pot to com­pen­sate clients.

Chris­tian Brady, re­gional man­ager of Black­tower Fi­nan­cial Man­age­ment Group, said a stream of wor­ried CWM clients had vis­ited her Javea of­fices to ask her ad­vice about their poli­cies and in­vest­ments.

She praised the three ‘huge’ com­pa­nies for their ded­i­cated work in try­ing to trace money to re­pay clients at least in part.

“Some peo­ple are sui­ci­dal,” she said. “They have put life sav­ings into this and ex­pected a quar­terly or monthly in­come; sud­denly they get noth­ing; they are sud­denly on a UK state pen­sion.

“They are at an age where they can­not go out and work and try to re­coup losses – they can­not phys­i­cally or men­tally go out and get a job.”

She said peo­ple were ‘dev­as­tated and dis­tressed’; adding: “Th­ese peo­ple trusted a com­pany to do their best for them, peo­ple were told not to worry and their money would be put into an in­vest­ment ap­pro­pri­ate for them.

“I think it is very, very bad and it re­flects on the whole in­dus­try – and there are very good fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sors out there. It makes you feel dis­il­lu­sioned in your pro­fes­sion and your job that this sort of thing hap­pens – it makes you ques­tion things and makes you very an­gry.”

Any­one wor­ried about their in­vest­ment is asked to email a ded­i­cated ad­dress or call a spe­cial num­ber at Trafal­gar In­ter­na­tional: 0049 69 3329 6730 or sup­port@trafal­gar­gmbh.com.

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