The OPES Pension Trust is a product provided by Close Brothers in Guernsey, the Channel Islands and marketed throughout Spain by Churchill Personal Investments.
Churchill are on the Costa del Sol Action Group website and are described as follows:
“Unregistered financial advisers named by the CMNV. We have received a number of complaints against these advisers”.
It is our opinion that the OPES product is mis-sold in Spain by Churchill.
Our reasons for stating this is as follows.
1. The Channel Islands have no Double Tax Treaties with Spain.
2. The Channel Islands are red flags to the Spanish tax authorities. There has been considerable tax evasion by Spanish residents in the Channel Islands, and it has a very low reputation with the Spanish tax authorities.
3. The Channel Islands is a named tax haven in Spanish law.
This means that assets located there (including those in a Trust described as OPES) would be deemed to be continued to be owned by the individual resident in Spain, and thus would continue to be liable to income tax, capital gains tax and wealth tax. If proper accounts were not provided, the Spanish tax authorities would assume that the income would be at the rate of 15% per annum, and tax the individual accordingly.
4. Churchill make much play of the fact that the OPES is tax free in Guernsey, but are less forthcoming about the tax position in Spain. Essentially, it depends on misrepresenting the product to the Spanish tax authorities. If the Spanish tax authorities were fully aware of the product, and investigated it, we believe the tax haven rules would immediately apply. Presenting it as some form of annuity, or pension (which it is not in terms of Spanish law) might mislead the tax authorities into taxing it favourably. However, this is obviously an unsafe position for the taxpayer.
Close Asset International Management Jersey Ltd
THIS COMPANY IS NOT REGISTERED IN SPAIN TO CONDUCT FINANCIAL BUSINESS.
KEVIN WHITE & DONALD NOTT ( Henry Woods Investment Management)
Both unlicenced advisors.
have no qualifications.
Have caused much hardship and stress to many families by miss selling
Kevin White has also issued a bounced cheque.
Go to our buton on this site marked
for further information
Mr Kevin White self employed and regularly visiting the Pensioner Clubs in Benalmadena and Fuengirola.
Mr White has a PO Box.
He has no office or telephone apart from a pay as you go mobile.
Allied International Independent Offshore Financial Advisers
Apartado de Correos No 614.
La Cala de Mijas 29649
Close International Management Jersey
Attn C N Fish Esq
20 March 04
I write to you on behalf of the Costa Del Sol Action Group.
We have observed an advertisement in the Spanish Newspaper Euro Weekly which features your agent Kevin White also trading as
Allied International Independent Offshore Financial Advisers.
White is exposed on our web site www.costa-actiongroup.co.uk
We are very surprised that you have obviously not made diligent enquiry into White.
By not doing so, you are allowing a person with no standards etc to carry your name as a target to miss sell.
White is unregulated, has no indemnity, works from a PO Box number and a mobile phone. He certainly has no qualifications.
A warning was issued about him from Labrow, this is published on our web site.
White has caused a lot of stress and hardship to many elderly people on the Costa Del Sol.
We have now published on our web site the fact that he is an authorised agent of Close. This will remain until you give us an assurance that he is no longer associated with your good house.
Copy of this email is being sent to your regulators as stated above.
I would also inform you that we have issued proceedings in the Criminal High Courts in Madrid for various criminal and fraudulent acts.
As at 13th April no reply
From: Nigel Hall <email@example.com>
To: "'firstname.lastname@example.org'" <email@example.com>Subject: Costa-Action Group
22nd March 2004
Dear Mr Klein,
Thank you for your email dated 19th March 2004, 18:33pm.
CAMJ takes all legal and regulatory responsibilities most seriously.
I would appreciate, if you are willing, a little background to the Costa-Action group, how you became involved, and the objectives of the action group.
Without delay, please formally write to me, detailing your full concerns, so that all relevant issues can be immediately raised at local Board level.
I re-iterate, we take our legal and regulatory responsibilities very seriously.
My address is:-
Close Asset Management Jersey Limited
I am writing to you on behalf of the Costa del Sol Action Group which was formed to expose a large number of financial advisers in Spain who act with out the proper regulatory authorisation in an attempt to ensure that investors are not the victims of mis selling.
This Group has been in existence for almost three years and has achieved unprecedented success in limiting the risk of inappropriate advice being provided to unsuspecting investors. There are over 300 members in the Group many of whom have lost significant sums of money mainly from the advice provided by these unregulated advisers.
We have also attempted to ensure that unauthorised products are not distributed in Spain. As you know the EU Third Life Directive, whilst permitting free movement of goods and services across EU borders, requires ALL investment and insurance products to be approved (or authorised) for distribution in any Member State. I also understand that under Jersey regulations you require all businesses regulated by you to only deal with regulated brokers or intermediaries. There have been flagrant breaches of this Directive and your rules by a number of Jersey based investment and insurance providers.
I know that the Jersey FSC has attempted to ensure that those businesses regulated there are at all times compliant with the local legislation. I also know that the Jersey Regulatory Authority are anxious not to breach EU Directives in order not to jeopardise their relationship with the EU in any future negotiations. Indeed Richard Pratt was in discussion with the Spanish regulator as late as last year in order to discuss the distribution of Jersey based products to Spanish residents.
A large number of Jersey based insurance companies will now no longer allow unregulated brokers to act as distributors for their products and this has meant a reduction in the number of unauthorised products being distributed by unregulated brokers. It is commendable that they have taken this stance and to their credit it will, in the longer term, uphold the reputation of these insurance companies by appointing only those distributors who are properly regulated in Spain.
I am particularly concerned that a seminar has been advertised by a Firm based in the Costa del Sol, Henry Woods Investment Brokers, who are not regulated at all, in any jurisdiction, contrary to the law in Spain and that a Jersey based product provider,Close Asset Management Jersey Limited, has agreed to attend to promote their products through this Firm. Indeed it must be remembered that the fund is also not authorised for distribution in Spain.
I urge you to use your considerable powers to ensure that this Jersey regulated business does not flaunt the laws of Spain by allowing an unregulated broker and an unauthorised product to become the subject of this seminar. The Fund is able to promote its product through regulated brokers and it therefore seems unduly provocative to the Spanish regulators to promote their fund through Henry Woods.
I am sure that you would not countenance a Spanish Broker arriving in Jersey and offering in a public seminar products that are not authorised for distribution in the Jersey and more especially through an unregulated entity?
This is a sensitive time for Jersey with international regulatory requirements becoming more onerous and I know that the Government of Jersey would want to wish the territory to avoid becoming involved in what promises to become a high profile legal action. We are pursuing a High Court case in Spain against Henry Woods and a number of product providers and we are aware that the Spanish regulators are studying files that indicate that unauthorised products are being openly marketed in Spain.
This seminar is also suggesting to potential attendees that a trust company will be in attendance and there is an inference (in supporting material provided by Henry Woods) that this structure may be used as means of evading tax in Spain. As you will also appreciate Jersey has agreed to do all in its power to prevent money laundering in this way and has introduced new regulations accordingly. The trust company is also Jersey based and I urge you to discuss with them their involvement in this seminar as I am certain that Jersey would not wish to countenance any risk of allowing money laundering (tax evasion) by the reckless use of a Jersey based trust.
The Action Group is arranging to carry out public demonstrations at each of the seminar venues to ensure that anyone attending is aware that they risk receiving unregulated advice and may be sold products that are not authorised for distribution. We do not wish to include Jersey as a territory that does nothing to prevent such illegal activity when it has the influence to prevent such events from including Jersey based Firms. But unless you can assure me that you will take action in this matter we will have no option but to include Jersey as a territory which allows such practices to continue despite the fact that you have been made aware of this matter.
I am sending a copy of this to the lawyers to the All Weather Fund, Beddall Cristen, as this is the focus of the seminar to be held by Henry Woods for their information.
Information regarding the seminars is also being sent to the two main Spanish regulatory bodies (CNMV and DGS).
A copy of this is also being sent to Close Asset Management Jersey Ltd. so that they will be aware of the public demonstrations that will take place (the police have been informed and may be present). We expect there to be significant media interest both locally and within the UK Press as they will be notified of this demonstration.
These seminars are being held between 30th march -2nd April so you have limited time in which to ensure that a Firm regulated in Jersey does not act as an accomplice to a breach of the law of Spain in relation to the provision of financial services.
I look forward to your reply ASAP
COSTA DEL SOLE ACTION GROUP WEB SITE
Further email sent 13 April 04
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Close Asset Management Jersey Limited
Dear Mr Hall
I am very surprised following your prompt and concerned response to my earlier email that I have not had the courtesy of a reply to my follow up information provide to you. I spent considerable time dealing with your request for further information and assumed that you would advise me of your view of the matters raised in my earlier email message.
I now know that Simon Dowling attended a series of meetings in the Costa Blanca in the company of Donald Nott of Henry Woods (amongst others) but that the originally advertised seminars did not proceed. Why do you imagine the seminars did not proceed? It was in my view the response to the activity of The Costa del Sol Action Group in advising that those who have been the victim of disastrous financial advice given by Henry Woods would boycott the seminars.
I am truly surprised that you have allowed the arrangement between Close and Henry Woods to continue. It is no coincidence that every single insurance company that used to deal with this Firm have removed their agency as they were swamped with misselling complaints; they also did not wish to tolerate the commercial risks which will come home to roost of using an unregulated agent.
As Henry Woods works with a diminishing number of investment houses so the risk increases that he has to "fit the client into the product" whatever the client profile. Henry Woods is no longer an independent financial adviser as he simply cannot select from the widest range of available products...they are not available to him now. Are you really that desperate for new business that you need to take the risk of dealing with this unregulated Firm?
I know that AILO has discussed this matter at some length and that they have issued guidelines to their members regarding the appointment of new agents as a result.
How do you think it will look for Close when the matter of the legal action is brought before the Courts of Spain?
Most importantly Henry Woods is now possibly promoting tax evasion by the use of trusts at a time when a whole raft of new legislation and cross border agreements have been determined to prevent such activity and to punish offenders and those that assist or facilitate such action. We are using the "mystery shopper" principle to gain further evidence of this activity and if discovered by evidence we shall be informing the Spanish tax authority and the Jersey authorities accordingly. For your information I have already sent a lengthy message to the Jersey Deputy responsible for the FSA and also to the Director and Deputy Director of the Jersey FSA regarding this matter.
Finally, you have not responded to the point I made regarding the requirement to gain approval and authorisation for your products to be openly marketed and sold to Spanish residents. Providing pure advice is not a regulated activity. And any individual may purchase an investment upon his or her own initiative. If a Jersey trust, on behalf of a Spanish resident, purchases an investment then this has to be reported for Spanish Gift Tax and the regulatory authority considers this to be a direct purchase for regulatory purposes by the Settlor, as they do not recognise the structure of the trust arrangement for this purpose.
If Henry Woods do anything to intermediate (even posting the application is enough) in the sale then he MUST be regulated by the CNMV (in the case of your All Weather Fund, as this is an investment Fund capable of trading in an open market.
I can assure you that unless you take action to prevent abuses of the Spanish regulatory system we will have no choice but to ensure that the general public become aware of Close's disregard for public investor safety and their disregard for the law of another sovereign-state.
I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.
Costa Del Sol Action group
cc Jersey Regulators