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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 October, 2004, 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK
Miners deceived on pensions
Tower Colliery
Tower Colliery reopened after a workers' buy-out in 1995
A financial advisor who took almost 800,000 from the miners' pension fund at Tower Colliery, has been found guilty of deception.

Workers who bought Wales' last deep mine employed Colin Stanton to set up a pension scheme, but they found money they expected had disappeared.

Stanton was found guilty of four charges of evading liability by deception at Reading Crown Court.

He was acquitted of four other charges of fraudulent trading.

Sentence on Stanton was adjourned until December.

The 58-year-old, from Buckinghamshire, was told by Judge Christopher Critchlow that the matters were of a "serious" nature and that "custody would be a likely outcome."

Stanton was employed to administer the pension fund after miners and management at Tower Colliery bought Wales' last deep mine from British Coal and reopened it in January 1995.

Investigation launched

The shareholders employed Stanton to set up the pension scheme when he promised to share any commission with them.

He also told the shareholders they could retire before the normal retirement age of 65 without penalty.

Stanton won the business but then deceived them for his own financial advantage
Simon Davis, prosecuting

But when some of the colliery's shareholders announced they would be retiring before the age of 65, they discovered they would be penalised.

An investigation was launched into Stanton when another client from outside Tower made complaints to the police.

Derek James, 60, asked Stanton for help with his pension but later found Stanton then paid himself 85,000 in commission.

'Pattern of behaviour'

Tower Colliery officials then discovered Stanton had taken nearly 800,000 in commission.

Simon Davis, prosecuting, had told the jury: "This is all about Mr Stanton charging or keeping commission for which he was not entitled.

Retired miner Roger Bargewell at home
Roger Bargewell is one of the miners who lost out

"When a particular client began to question the basis in which Mr Stanton was conducting his business with reference to commission or fees charged or due, a pattern of behaviour emerged."

Mr Davis said the Tower miners bought the colliery and opened it in January 1995, with all of them shareholders.

"There arose a need to establish a new pension scheme and a number of independent financial advisors were invited to pitch for the business."

He said that Stanton won the business but then "deceived them for his own financial advantage."

'First complaint'

Speaking after the verdict, Detective Constable Nick Bell of Thames Valley Police, said: "What Stanton did was deplorable.

"The chairman of Tower Colliery, Tyrone O'Sullivan said to me that it really hurt him how much commission Stanton received and he said what a difference it would have made to the lives of the miners."

Around 20 miners are having to stay on at work for several more years longer than they had planned.

One of those who lost out is retired miner Roger Bargewell, who left work at Tower after suffering a stroke, but was told his pension would not suffer.

He said: "He deserves whatever he gets, if they send him down, that's a good thing - miners put their trust and faith in him and this is what he did."

Dc Bell added: "Derek James was the first to make a complaint.

"He noticed in 1998 there was a problem and everything else was a knock-on from that.

"Stanton managed the miners pension from 1995 to 1999. He got away with it for so long because he appears very plausible."

Stanton had told the jury that Mr O'Sullivan had agreed he could take the commission.

The judge adjourned sentencing to 20 December for pre-sentence reports.

Stanton had denied four charges of evading liability by deception between March 1995 and November 2000.

He was acquitted of four other charges of fraudulent trading.

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