An accountant who treated a pension scheme for which he was a trustee and administrator like a ‘personal piggy bank’ has been found guilty of fraud for transferring more than £280,000 of funds to support his own businesses and investments
Roger Bessent took the money from the Focusplay Retirement Benefit Scheme and put it into struggling and new businesses he part owned and which were run by himself, his family and a client.
The Focusplay Retirement Benefit Scheme was the pension scheme for Gleeson Bessent (Accountants and Business Advisers) Ltd, of which Bessent was a director. Bessent was also a director of a professional pension trustee firm, Gleeson Bessent Trustees Ltd, which was trustee to the Focusplay scheme. In this way, Bessent was able to access the pension scheme’s funds and transfer them to his other businesses.
He converted the transfers into loans and made official minutes and records of the pension scheme falsely listing other trustees as present at meetings when they were not.
Bessent, from Lancashire, used more than £120,000 to buy himself and his wife a house to rent out as a personal investment but their daughter lived in it with her partner. Other funds from the scheme were used to pay tax bills for Bessent’s accountancy business and the business of a client, to subsidise the running costs of a children’s nursery and as start-up investment capital in his son-in-law’s physiotherapy business.
About £80,000 of the total has been repaid.
The Pensions Regulator (TPR) charged Bessent with fraud by abuse of position and making employer-related investments by way of prohibited loans – the first time TPR had prosecuted for either of the offences.
At Preston Crown Court Bessent pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud and two counts of making employer-related investments. The case was adjourned until 29 March when he will be sentenced.
Nicola Parish, TPR’s executive director of frontline regulation, said: ‘Bessent used the pension scheme as his personal piggy bank, transferring out hundreds of thousands of pounds for his own personal benefit and to keep his other businesses going.
‘As an accountant, Bessent was someone that people would turn to for advice and put their trust in. He abused that trust and used his position as trustee to defraud the scheme for his benefit and the benefit of his friends and family.
‘Trustees play a vital role in protecting the benefits of members. We will not tolerate the abuse of such an important job.’
Separate to TPR’s action, the Insolvency Service prosecuted Bessent for breaching a disqualification undertaking from 2017, which banned him from being a company director.
He pleaded guilty to one count of acting as a director of a limited company while disqualified at Preston Crown Court on 27 February and will also be sentenced for the offence at the same court on 29 March.
Report by Pat Sweet