The Times can today disclose the connection following an investigation into a complex web of companies and their directors.
Paramount Independent Property Services makes more than £5million a year from providing emergency accommodation for the homeless in Kent but the firm has links with investment firm Portal Financial Services.
Portal has just lost an appeal after the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) found it has been mis-selling pension schemes and claims against the business could now run into the millions.
The High Court found against the finance firm last month after its clients saw their pensions wiped out after they pumped money into a high-risk scheme run by a business called Cherish Wealth Management – a business that has collapsed after a separate High Court action for mis-selling investments totalling more than £30million.
The decision now opens the door to claims from all the investors who ploughed money into the scheme through Portal and lost their money, which is likely to be in the millions of pounds.
According to Companies House, Portal has not filed its accounts since May 2020 and would have been struck-off the register of UK companies earlier this month had the move not been blocked by anxious investors trying to claw money back.
If the company collapses, the only redress for those that have lost pensions is to appeal to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
Yet through an interconnected web of businesses, Portal Financial Services is run by the same people as a lucrative property business making millions from housing the homeless in Kent.
Portal has a sole ‘designated member’, which operates in a similar fashion as a company director, and that is a business called Galahad Advisory, run by Gillingham businessman Andrew Moore.
Until recently, Agravain Advisory, run by Rochester-based Jamie Smith- Thompson, also acted as a ‘designated member’ to Portal.
The business resigned its position just before the High Court ruling.
Both these businesses are also ‘designated members’ to Paramount Independent Property Services.
The housing firm provides emergency, nightly accommodation to nearly all the district and borough authorities in the county, including Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC).
Paramount, whose Managing Director Grant D’Negri is a former a Tonbridge & Malling Housing Officer, received more than £5million of taxpayers’ money from Kent’s authorities in one year alone, including £86,000 from TWBC, according to figures seen by the Times.
A spokesperson for TWBC confirmed that Paramount was still used for ‘nightly paid’ accommodation for the homeless, although the authority says it is now using the company’s services less frequently as it is utilising its own stock of temporary accommodation.
But a number of Kent councils are still heavily reliant on the services of Paramount, with authorities such as Thanet having spent up to £2million on one year alone to house homeless people with them.
A spokesman for Thanet District Council confirmed this week that Paramount was still ‘a significant source of temporary accommodation’ for the council.
Despite this, as it is a separate business entity, investors who lost money through Portal will be unable to claw back money from Paramount, despite the same people being behind both companies.
Hugo Pound, leader of the Labour group at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council told the Times that paying a company that ‘cream off a profit’ from homelessness, was ‘madness’.
He added: “Until the Council commits to building more genuinely affordable housing for rent, we will have individuals and families unable to find the money to rent, let alone buy, a property.
“And for the Council to pay a company – who then cream off a profit from that contract – rather than managing a relatively small operation itself, seems like madness when our budgets are being constantly squeezed by this Conservative Government.”
Portal, Paramount, Andrew Moore, Jamie Smith-Thompson and Grant D’Negri were all approached for comment but did not respond.
MIS-SELLING CLAIMS LED TO COLLAPSE OF MINI-BOND FIRM
A Tunbridge Wells minibond company that collapsed owing more than £237million to more than 11,500 investors had also been found to have mis-sold its investments.
London Capital & Finance, which was set up by former Tunbridge Wells Conservative party chairman, Simon Hume-Kendall, went bust in January 2019 after the city watchdog – the Financial Conduct Authority – froze its bank accounts after it was found to have mis-sold its products.
It led to a collapse of the company that saw investors, many of them having had ploughed in their life savings and pension funds, lose more than £237million.
The collapse of LCF, which is currently at the centre of a Serious Fraud Office investigation, has been one of the biggest financial investment scandals in recent years.
There is no suggestion that either Portal Financial Services or Paramount Independent Property Services have acted unlawfully or that the amount of money lost to investors is on the same scale as the LCF collapse.