Two men who put pension savers' money into "exotic, high risk and suspected scam investments" have been banned from being trustees by The Pensions Regulator (TPR).
The watchdog banned Dorrixo Alliance directors trustees Stephen Alexander Ward and Anthony Salih, who acted as trustees for the London Quantum pension scheme.
According to TPR, the double act transferred "millions of pounds" of savers' funds into investments in eucalyptus farms, hotel rooms on an African island, and car park bays.
The regulator's Determinations Panel found that the pair "lacked the competence and capability to be trustees". It also described Ward as "reckless and lacking in integrity" as he had failed to investigate an inappropriate employer-related investment that "should have been obvious to him as a professional trustee".
Both men were warned that they could be jailed if they act as a trustee in the future.
TPR said that, between April 2014 and June 2015, hundreds of people were approached by introducers being paid commission to try to persuade pension holders to transfer their funds to the London Quantum scheme for investment in "exotic-sounding propositions".
More than 90 people transferred their pensions, worth in excess of £6m to the scheme. Hundreds of thousands of pounds were then paid out to Dorrixo.
TPR executive director of frontline regulation Nicola Parish said: "Stephen Ward and Anthony Salih put millions of pounds of other people's money at risk and have neither the knowledge nor the skills needed to run a pension scheme."
She said trustees "play a vital role as the first line of defence" but these two men allowed huge sums to be invested into high-risk, exotic investments that "bear all the hallmarks of being scams".
"As this case shows, we will take action to replace trustees if we believe they are putting scheme funds at risk and will ban those who are not fit to perform such an important task -pursuing cases right the way through the courts if that is what it takes to get the right result."
TPR and the Financial Conduct Authority joined forces in August to launch a national awareness campaign about pension scams. It came after government figures revealed savers lost around £91,000 each on average from scammers promising lucrative returns from fraudulent schemes.
Last week, recruitment agency Workchain was hit with a record £280,000 fine after posing as staff and illegally opting them out of their workplace pension scheme.
The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has substantially increased the usage of its powers against trustees – posting a sharp rise in the use of formal information gathering powers and High Court production orders during the three months to the end of September....
The Pension Schemes Bill has completed its third reading, crossing its latest hurdle in the House of Commons.
An amendment to the Pensions Schemes Bill which would have seen people given a pre-booked Pension Wise appointment ahead of accessing their retirement savings has been defeated.
A proposal to ensure savers receive a Pension Wise appointment prior to accessing their retirement pot has received cross-party support in parliament, while Labour seeks net-zero pensions by 2050.
Pension scams are not just about the money lost, but the lives devastated, says Nicola Parish, so the industry must unite to defeat this scourge.