The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has secured its first criminal convictions, with a solicitor and firm ordered to pay over £16,000 for refusing to provide information.
Solicitor Anthony Wilson and London-based Ashley Wilson Solicitors, where he is a managing partner, refused to supply documents to TPR which were required as part of a investigation into a separate individual.
Wilson and the firm were pursued for nine months to release the documents, which related to a property linked to an individual. That individual was involved in a TPR investigation into a suspected pension scam.
Neither Wilson nor the firm was connected with the investigation and there was no indication that their staff had committed any wrongdoing in relation to the property.
TPR secured the documents by entering the Knightsbridge offices of Ashley Wilson Solicitors with a search warrant in March 2016, and decided that the failure to release them merited criminal prosecution. TPR said this was the first time the regulator has ever pursued criminal proceedings.
At Brighton Magistrates' Court yesterday, both Wilson and Ashley Wilson Solicitors pleaded guilty to refusing to provide documents under section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004 without a reasonable excuse.
Sentencing, district Judge Christopher James ordered Wilson to pay a fine of £4,000, £7,500 in costs and a £120 victim surcharge. The firm was ordered to pay a £2,700 fine, £2,500 costs and a £120 victim surcharge.
TPR executive director of front line regulation, Nicola Parish, said: 'Legal action could have been avoided if Mr Wilson or someone else at the firm had simply handed over the documents, as they should have done, because the information had already been retrieved from storage.
'As the court recognised, information notices are a key enforcement tool for TPR. We will not hesitate to prosecute those who prevent us gathering the vital data we need for our investigations. Refusing to comply with a legal request from The Pensions Regulator will not be tolerated.'