Ex-foot­ball club boss in probe over al­leged pen­sions scam:

Bangor Mail - - FRONT PAGE -

AFORMER Ban­gor City FC pres­i­dent is fac­ing an or­gan­ised crime probe over an al­leged pen­sions’ scheme scam.

Gor­don Craig, who is still listed as a di­rec­tor at the club, is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by the North West re­gional or­gan­ised crime unit Ti­tan over his role as a trustee of Op­ti­mum Re­tire­ments Ben­e­fits Plan and other pen­sion schemes. Mr Craig be­came a di­rec­tor in July 2016.

The club said he was “no longer at the foot­ball club in any ca­pac­ity”, de­spite be­ing still listed with Com­pa­nies House as hold­ing the po­si­tion.

The Pen­sion Reg­u­la­tor (TPR) said Craig paid him­self nearly £500,000 in a year and handed over tens of thou­sands in com­mis­sions to fi­nan­cial ad­vis­ers rec­om­mend­ing his scheme.

The reg­u­la­tor said Op­ti­mum, which was wound up in Fe­bru­ary, was a “pen­sion lib­er­a­tion scheme” which of­fered 288 re­tire­ment savers loans of up to 75% of their pen­sion funds.

Funds which were not paid out were in­vested in high-risk projects, such as min­ing gem stones and pro­cess­ing olive oil.

Two ad­vis­ers in­volved with Op­ti­mum were jailed for money laun­der­ing of­fences, while a third re­ceived a sus­pended sen­tence from the courts.

The TPR de­ter­mi­na­tions panel said: “The per­mis­sion of ac­tiv­ity that ap­pears to be pen­sions lib­er­a­tion strongly sug­gests that Craig, if he has the knowl­edge and skill of a pen­sions trustee, is not ex­er­cis­ing it prop­erly.”

The panel heard in­vestors were urged to switch their pen­sions to Op­ti­mum by cold-call­ing sales­men paid high com­mis­sions by Craig’s firm.

Com­pa­nies House lists Ban­gor City FC’s di­rec­tors as be­ing Craig, Wil­liam Henry Adamson and James Robert Lees, all reg­is­tered at the ad­dresses of Op­ti­mum Fi­nan­cial So­lu­tions, Skelmers­dale. The firm was wound up in Fe­bru­ary.

This is the lat­est con­tro­versy to hit the club. Ear­lier this month a num­ber of Wrex­ham sup­port­ers boy­cotted their friendly match at Ban­gor be­cause of City’s con­nec­tion with Stephen Vaughan and his son Stephen Vaughan Jr.

For­mer Ch­ester City owner Stephen Vaughan was the first owner of a pro­fes­sional foot­ball club to fail the FA’s “fit and proper per­son” test and re­mains banned from hold­ing a com­pany di­rec­tor­ship un­til 2020. When a Cheshire-based con­sor­tium, in­clud­ing new pres­i­dent Gor­don Craig, took over Ban­gor City FC in 2016, they said he would have no in­volve­ment in run­ning the club.

But Mr Vaughan ap­peared along­side the new own­ers at a press con­fer­ence, de­scrib­ing him­self as a “shirt spon­sor”. VSM (Vaughan Sports Man­age­ment) has since been on the club’s shirts.

Stephen Vaughan Jr is Ban­gor’s di­rec­tor of foot­ball, and VSM’s two di­rec­tors are Emily Jane and Tess Vaughan.

Ban­gor City gen­eral man­ager Luke Pur­cell said the club “only has two di­rec­tors – Adamson and Lees”.

Mr Pur­cell said: “I have never spo­ken to Gor­don Craig my­self since Fe­bru­ary when I came. I haven’t had any deal­ings with him. I don’t know who he is.”

At a board­room reshuf­fle in Jan­uary, Craig re­signed as chair­man, but re­mains listed as a di­rec­tor.

Stephen Vaughan Jr said: “Gor­don is no longer at the foot­ball club in any ca­pac­ity.” He said if he was still reg­is­tered as a di­rec­tor with Com­pa­nies House, it was an “over­sight” and he would in­form the cur­rent di­rec­tors.

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