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

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Alex Ward

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

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