Investment victim’s ‘life of misery’
By Jack Troughton COSTA Blanca resident Joan Brown who lost more than €640,000 in bad investments said this week she was living ‘an utterly miserable and horrible life’.
Forced to count every penny and surviving on a state pension, the 85 year old has been twice driven to attempt suicide after suffering the massive losses to her retirement nest egg. Joan, who lives in Jávea, is one of hundreds of investors who trusted financial advice company Continental Wealth Management SL, which crashed just over a year ago with losses estimated to be between €60 million to €80 million.
Safe low and medium risk investments were found to have been moved to high-risk and illiquid holdings that earned high commissions for CWM, based at La Xara.
She told Costa Blanca News some €101,000 remains from her main stake, held by Scandinavian investment bank SEB but it cannot be withdrawn without paying huge penalties – income from the holding has long since vanished. Another smaller and later investment can only be redeemed by paying €44,000.
“It is like hitting a brick wall; I don’t seem to be getting anywhere, it is terrible,” she said.
Joan and husband Derek moved to Spain 24 years ago. She said that ‘completely out of character’, Derek responded to CWM cold calls in 2008 and trusted their money to the company.
However, he suffered a stroke in 2010 and developed dementia – although Joan believes he was already falling victim to the cruel disease.
Her husband passed away in August 2014 – and her beloved golden retriever Harvey had to be put to sleep earlier this year aged 14.
Joan said: “I just wake up every morning, thinking ’what’s the point? Everything has gone: my husband my dog and my money.
“Money does not buy happiness but it does allow you to buy an airfare to see friends, to go shopping, to enjoy life.
“I really, really cannot see the point of living a life of utter misery.”
She alleges she was asked to sign papers and agreed to allow CWM to fill in the details, little realising she was in affect authorising switching money into a high risk holding and extending the period until maturity.
Alarm bells started ringing over the smaller €104,000 investment, made in 2014, when she received an annual statement.
“There is always an occasion when they go up and down a little bit; from the beginning this was down enormous amounts,” she said.
“I cannot come to terms with the fact I have lost €640,000; it is a hell of a lot of money and my life should be so different. It is getting worse, not better.”
Joan said she expected to be paid compensation from CWM regulators but none was forthcoming while SEB maintained it acted in accordance with signed paperwork.
She said stress meant she could not eat – her weight has fallen from nine stone eight pounds to around eight stone – and she takes valium daily to help her cope.
She said the only hope was legal action being brought by another finance company but fears it will be too late – at present she has put her home up for sale and plans to downsize and return to the UK.
“I will have to live on the proceeds of the sale of the house, there is nothing left. How these people can sleep at night, I just don’t know,” she said.
Joan is being helped by Christina Brady an associate director of international financial management company Blacktower.
Cristina said some 30 CWM clients had asked for her advice and she had tried to trace funds and attempted to get money released.
“The saddest thing is people are still in limbo; nothing has been resolved and nothing has materialised...people need clarification of where they stand.”