Bankrupt couple paid debt at £200 a month (but spent £1m a year)
Cash from hidden trust fund was lavished on flying lessons, luxury cars and tickets to sporting events
A SCOTTISH couple who hid the proceeds from their financial business after it went bust led a luxurious lifestyle of fast cars and flying lessons to avoid repaying their clients.
John and colette chiesa were forced into sequestration – the Scottish equivalent of bankruptcy – when it emerged in 2011 that they had mis-sold endowment policies as the founders of Westwood Independent Financial Planners.
But the pair then misled investigators charged with retrieving money and continued to benefit from an offshore trust from which they had access to more than £1million a year.
Both have now been banned from working in the industry by the Financial conduct Authority (FCA). Mrs chiesa was fined £50,000 for attempting to mislead the regulator.
Between April 2012 and December 2014, Mr and Mrs chiesa were paid an average of £84,000 a month by their trust, while repaying only £200 a month to their creditors.
Mrs chiesa, 54, spent £6,000 a month on designer clothing, jewellery, interior design and cosmetic dental treatment – and drove a Porsche.
Mr chiesa, 63, regularly paid for tennis and football tickets, while also spending an average of £12,000 a month on flying lessons.
the Financial Services compensation Scheme (FSCS), which helped the customers the chiesas had swindled, has so far paid out nearly £4million lost due to the chiesas’ mis-selling of geared traded endowment policies, a highly risky type of investment based on life insurance plans.
Until recently, the chiesas lived in a £1.8million mansion on the outskirts of the affluent village of Gerrards cross, Buckinghamshire, which has four en suite bedrooms and a giant water feature.
the couple were married in Dunoon, Argyll, and had previously lived in Motherwell and Bothwell, both in lanarkshire.
FCA executive director of enforcement and market oversight Mark Steward said: ‘the chiesas misled their creditors, especially the FSCS, in a calculated way.
‘their misconduct demonstrates a serious lack of integrity.’
It has also emerged that Mrs chiesa bragged to prospective clients about her ability to beat the taxman and claimed it took only ‘a few simple steps’ to hide money.
According to an online CV, Mr chiesa claims to have more than 30 years’ experience as an independent financial adviser ‘providing innovative solutions for wealth creation’.
his profile as chairman of Westwood Independent Financial Planners says his aim is ‘to provide clients with honest advice coupled with integrity’.
It was only after a lengthy investigation that the FCA discovered the pair had received around £2.6million in supposed loans from their offshore trust, which investigators believed they had no intention of paying back.
Mrs chiesa used an online CV to tout for business.
It said: ‘the fact is that you have worked hard, you should reap the benefits of all those early mornings and late nights. We work with successful business owners who are curious and open to better, smarter ways of doing things – people who would rather invest their tax than pay it.
‘I can show you how a few simple steps can dramatically reduce your exposure to tax, while at the same time protecting everything you have built from attack by HMRC and creditors alike.’
‘A serious lack of integrity’
Banned and fined: Colette Chiesa, left, received money from an offshore trust. Above, the FCA’s Mark Steward