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Maltese Falcon Funds fraud turns into Swedish noir

Falcon Funds, a Malta-based asset manager, is being investigated by the Swedish Economic Crime Authority (SECA) after allegations that it has defrauded 22,000 Swedish pension investors of hundreds of millions of Swedish krona. 

Falcon had been accused by the Swedish Pensions Authority (SPA) of “deceitful and fraudulent actions in relation to Swedish pension savers, carried out by insurance intermediaries or call centre companies”.

The three sub-funds – cautious, balanced and aggressive – in the Falcon Funds SICAV had previously been registered as eligible UCITS funds in the Swedish Premium Pension System.

Premium Pension savings made up virtually all of the sub-funds’ assets.

The sub-funds were managed by Malta-based Temple Asset Management (TAM), although Falcon has not only rescinded the contract but is now suing TAM.

The SPA launched its own probe into Falcon in late 2015 and subsequently de-registered the sub-funds, with most of the investors’ interests moved to AP7’s Såfa default option.

The Swedish regulators also issued a redemption order in June 2016 for the return of investors’ capital from the company.

So far, nearly SEK1.3bn (€136m) has been returned, out of the SEK2.4bn total value of the sub-funds at the time of the order. 

Mikael Westberg, chief legal counsel at SPA, said it was likely that investors would receive a significantly lower net asset value than that currently displayed in the accounts of the individual sub-funds.

He said: “This is due to the fact Falcon Funds made harmful investments and exaggerated the value of the funds.”

It was late last year when the SPA asked SECA to investigate Falcon, after it refused to return all the investors’ money.

There were allegations that the company had unlawfully defrauded pension savers to put their savings into its funds, and that the investment policies of the funds were not sound.

Falcon was also accused of conflicts of interest in investing savers’ money.

A key player appears to be Emil Ingmanson, a Swedish businessman who acted as an introducer for Falcon Funds to the SPA, and who is also being sued by Falcon Funds. 

Ingmanson has been linked by the SPA with improper behaviour in relation to the sub-funds’ investments in exchange-traded instruments (ETIs).

The SPA said: “The Agency strongly suspects that Falcon Funds has chosen to invest in the ETIs due to a business relationship with Mr. Ingmanson, which constitutes a serious conflict of interest.”

It added: “The Agency concludes that the instruments’ design may be purposely non-transparent in order to veil any further analysis of the underlying assets and the risks connected to an investment in the ETIs.”

Arne Fors, the SECA prosecutor leading the investigation team, told IPE: “We don’t know what some of the underlying assets are within the Falcon funds, so we have to look into that. There are also questions about the different companies involved, and we need to inspect their accounts to see where the money went.”

Fors also said that three individuals so far had been identified as suspects, but declined to name them. No charges have yet been brought, against corporations or individuals.

But depending on the outcome of the investigations, court action could follow.

Fors said: “If a crime has been committed in Sweden, then legal action would be brought in Sweden. But if the crime was committed only in Malta, proceedings would only take place there.”

Meanwhile, the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) has appointed KPMG Malta to run Falcon Funds in place of the company’s own management.

Last September, the MFSA had backed the SPA’s demand for the return of investors’ capital, ordering Falcon to comply with EU regulations.

Westberg said: “We are still in a very serious situation, and it has been made worse due to the fact Falcon Funds has been left without management for several months. Therefore, we are pleased that Falcon Funds will now be subject to proper management and that we now finally can expect an orderly redemption of the remaining assets.”

Westberg continued: “Up until now, Falcon Funds, under the supervision of the board of directors, has inflicted serious damage on both Swedish pension savers and the Swedish pension system.”

And he concluded: “Our work on this matter will therefore continue with full force, with the objective to get as much money back as possible. We will also hold those responsible for this accountable and we will consider all available legal options.” 

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