|Published:||15 Apr at 6 PM|
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The boss of a failed financial advisory company in Alicante is in hiding, having failed to attend a Spanish court hearing.
Darren Kirby’s Alicante-based Continental Wealth Management financial advisory company folded in 2017, leaving hundreds of investors out of pocket to the tune of millions. Continental Wealth Management’s Denia office in the Marriott Hotel was an upscale setup aimed at impressing future clients, with the company also managing up to 10 telesales staff dealing with expat clients across Europe. Its modus operandum was the classic scam of persuading expats to simply sign an application form and leave the details to be filled in by advisors, who then ignored client requests and placed the cash in high-risk assets paying huge commissions.
One Costa del Sol pensioner told reporters he’d trusted his IFA to act in his best interests, but had lost €210,000 when the firm shut down without warning. A former employee described the set up as ‘prestigious’, adding the closure was abrupt and unannounced. As in similar scams perpetrated by fraudulent IFAs in many favourite expat destinations across the world, the investments were linked to life insurance policies issued by insurers based offshore in locations such as the Isle of Man. The firm’s boss, Darren Kirby, fled to Australia when the frauds were discovered, leaving a trail of pensioners bereft of their life savings, but is said to have returned to Alicante last year and has now failed to turn up for a court hearing, although several of his business partners were in attendance.
A lawyer acting for three investors who lost six-figure amounts when the firm shut down believes Kirby is now hiding somewhere in the UK, and has not responded to the demand to attend court. It’s now up to the court to find other ways to force his attendance, with the case now under legal review. The lawyer also believes some of the lost monies may be recoverable due to the investments being linked to life insurance policies. This case is one of many being pursued by expats in Asia as well as in Europe, including the notorious LMIM Australian property scam mainly affecting expats living, working or retiring in Asian hubs including Hong Kong and Thailand.
In the LMIM case, it’s now clear that offshore insurers were fully aware the company was about to close down, as were the IFAs concerned, but continued accepting applications from IFAs right up until the scam fell apart. Again, millions were lost and IFAs fled when their clients found out. Years later, financial reparation is still being sought without success as many IFAs involved are now unable to be traced.
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