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Bid to recoup pension cash stolen by former top boss at council

‘Trusted member of team’ is convicted of defrauding city council and spending funds on mortgage payments, car and lifestyle

19 October, 2018 — By Tom Foot

Ian Woodall, Westminster Council’s former interim chief investment officer, defrauded its pension fund between 2009 and 2012

DETECTIVES say they are still searching for almost £1million from Westminster Council’s pension fund eight years after it was trousered by a top boss.

The council’s former interim chief investment officer, Ian Woodall, from Dorking, was convicted of fraud by abuse of position and money laundering on Monday after a 10-day trial at Southwark Crown Court. He is due to be sentenced on November 16.

Police said the 47-year-old defrauded the pension fund of the council between 2009 and 2012 and spent the cash on mortgage payments, car, and lifestyle.

Detective Sergeant Andrew Bailey, of the Met’s fraud squad, said: “Work is being carried out to recover the stolen money and the Metropolitan Police Service are determined to ensure Woodall’s crime will not pay.”

He added: “Woodall betrayed his colleagues and his employers, using other people’s savings to fund his lifestyle. Thankfully his criminality was uncovered by auditors and the resulting police investigation has brought him to justice.”

Woodall worked directly for the council liaising with bankers on payments and investments and was a “trusted member of the team”.

He had “effectively been in employment with the council since 2003 in various positions”, according to the Met.

Later his consultancy firm, Lonkal Consulting Limited, was contracted by the council to provide advice.

In 2008 the catastrophic economic crash jeopardised £17million of Westminster’s pension fund invested in Icelandic banks.

Heavy losses triggered a review of investment practices at Westminster City Hall by KPMG, that recommended outsourcing all investment advice.

The review, published in December 2008, repeatedly mentions Lonkal Consulting Limited. It adds that “recent staff changes has reduced the level of in-house treasury expertise” and there was “limited challenge when approving proposed investments” when Lonkal was not available to give advice.

At the time four fund managers were employ-ed to manage around £200million of the council’s investments. The report said: “The director of finance should consider the option of outsourcing the management of all the council’s cash investments.”

The Met said that the council was defrauded by Woodall between January 2009 and December 2012. In 2010 Woodall stopped working directly for Westminster Council but in 2013, an audit found “significant discrepancies” in the staff pension fund.

There were four suspicious transactions for which no “records, authorities or information” could be found.

The Met said its fraud squad found that Woodall diverted pension funds through Swiss bank accounts and then back into the UK, where he distributed the money to both his personal and company bank accounts.

The council said its controls and processes have undergone a huge overhaul since 2010.

A council statement said: “This was a serious breach of the council’s trust from a senior employee, resulting in a detailed police investigation.

“This was a significant time ago.

“Since then we have changed our processes to make them even more robust and kept these under review.

“The fact we were able to pick this up and successfully prosecute is positive and we will now do all that we can to recoup this money through the courts.”

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