Edition 1513
16 February 2019
Edition: 1513

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UK regulator grilled over Algarve missing cash

by Brendan de Beer, in News · 31-01-2019 10:28:00 · 0 Comments

A case involving missing millions of euros of people’s cash who were transferring money between the United Kingdom and Portugal, has been debated in London at a Treasury Select Committee in the House of Commons.

UK regulator grilled over Algarve missing cash

During the hearing, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) admitted that almost 250,000 transactions have been scrutinised involving the now defunct currency exchange company Premier FX.


The FCA failed to say whether any headway had been made in their hunt for the missing money in their investigation of the Almancil-based company.


The British financial markets watchdog had last August filed a request with UK courts to declare Premier FX insolvent. This came following the death of the sole director and shareholder Peter Rexstrew, who died in a Lisbon hospital last June while undergoing surgery.


Most of the clients affected by the closure of the company are British nationals who either live in Portugal and Spain, or have holiday homes here.


FCA Chief Executive Andrew Bailey told parliament’s Treasury Select Committee on Tuesday that he was concerned that money of people had been lost.


“I am very concerned, obviously, that the money of individuals has been lost in this activity,” Bailey said.


This, he said, was largely due to the fact that while Premier FX had a licence to transfer money, it was not allowed to take deposits, which it did.


“The person involved in this is said to be dead. I think it’s incumbent upon his relatives, his business partners to tell us where the money is,” Bailey told the Select Committee.


The FCA Chief Executive further said it was his “first priority to find the money”, adding that Premier FX had “misrepresented its authorisation” in a practice that he said was “illegal.”


While the agenda of the Treasury Select Committee was broadly defined as being the UK’s Economic Relationship with the European Union, Charlie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover, used the meeting to raise the issue of Premier FX.


The MP questioned Andrew Bailey on behalf of a constituent who lost almost 600,000 euros with the demise of Premier FX in an exchange which lasted around five minutes.


Charlie Elphicke also sought an explanation from the FCA as to how Premier FX managed to continue “misrepresenting its authorisation”, despite the fact that Bank of Portugal had reportedly fined the company in 2017 for operating beyond its licence and immediately informed the FCA of its decision.


It is unclear what the next moves will be following the past week’s developments in London.


But one former client of Premier FX, who lost thousands of euros following the collapse of the company, on Wednesday told The Portugal News that the hope was now that the door would be opened to financial compensation following the FCA admitting that the company had been operating illegally.


While it may still be premature to place too much hope on the Financial Services Compensation Scheme intervening, the intention is clearly now that officials will be able to avoid similar cases from being repeated in the future.


Last year, Portugal’s PJ police announced that it had started investigating the closure of Premier FX after it went into administration.
Citing a source from the General Attorney’s Office, magazine Visão said the investigation had been triggered by “a complaint related to this case”.


While there is no specific data freely available, the magazine said the company had 66 accounts in several currencies held with Barclays Bank in London, with each one seeing between 50 and 100 transactions on a daily basis.


The case continues to be probed by the Public Prosecutors’ Department for Investigation and Penal Action (DIAP) in Faro.


Peter Rexstrew’s children, Katy and Charles, were briefly appointed as directors of the company but claimed that “with little assistance from Barclays [with whom all company accounts were held], and with limited information” were “unable to reconcile the Company’s finances/accounts” and the decision was made to suspend trading about six weeks later.


This is according to a Derby-based solicitor’s letter issued on Katy Grogan and Charles Rexstrew’s behalf, “to dispel rumours of any wrongdoing on their part”.


The solicitor’s letter claims Katy and Charles have been subjected “to threats of physical violence and abuse”, and stressed: “Contrary to reports, our Clients did not inherit the business”.


The letter goes on to say the abuse has been fuelled “in no small part by misleading press articles”, and warns: “Moving forward, any attempts by the Company’s customers/creditors to contact our clients and/or members of their family will be deemed harassment, and appropriate action will be taken, pursuant to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997”

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Edition 1513
16 February 2019
Edition: 1513

Read this week's issue online exactly as it appears in print.

Twitter

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