A solicitor and the firm where he is a partner have been ordered to pay more than £16,000 in fines and costs for refusing to hand over documents needed as part of an investigation into a pension scam.
Anthony Wilson and Ashley Wilson Solicitors, the Knightsbridge firm where he is managing partner, pleaded guilty to refusing to provide documents without reasonable excuse at Brighton Magistrates’ Court this week.
District Judge Christopher James ordered Wilson to pay a £4,000 fine plus £7,500 costs. Ashley Wilson Solicitors was ordered to pay a £2,700 fine and £2,500 costs.
According to The Pensions Regulator, which brought the case, it is the first criminal conviction it has secured.
Wilson failed to provide the required documents despite requests for almost nine months.
The documents related to a property linked to an individual who was involved in a pension scam investigation.
Neither Wilson nor the firm was connected with the investigation and there was no suggestion that their staff had done anything wrong in their dealings with the property, TPR said.
Despite TPR making numerous requests for the information, it was only when it obtained a search warrant for the firm’s offices in March last year that the documents were secured.
Judge James said that information notices were an important enforcement tool for TPR that had been used appropriately.
Nicola Parish, executive director of frontline litigation at TPR, said: ‘Our staff received a series of woeful excuses rather than the information they had requested. This was a case of the company refusing to comply with the law. Legal action could have been avoided if Wilson or someone else at the firm had simply handed over the documents, as they should have done, because the information had already been retrieved from storage.’
Wilson told the Gazette: ’I personally made errors of judgement in relation to my communications with the Pensions Regulator for which I personally have accepted full responsibility and readily acknowledge. As a consequence I ultimately felt it appropriate to plead guilty to the offence. However, I do not feel that there were any circumstances which justified the regulator pursuing a criminal prosecution against the firm when my partners had absolutely no knowledge of the Pensions Regulator’s request. There was clearly no intention to deceive or mislead the Pensions Regulator in any way and no loss was suffered. The Pensions Regulator acknowledged that there was nothing of interest to it on the file in any event.’