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Monday 28 August 2023


Norton pensions fraud saga still ongoing

A British newspaper has reported that Members of the UK Parliament are to launch an inquiry into the pension fraud prosecution of former Norton Motorcycles owner Stuart Garner. Basically, with investors still waiting for refunds of embezzled money (refunds that will likely never come in full), the inquiry will seek to establish if the prosecution of Garner was influenced by the prior support that he had received from local, regional and national government officials and business agencies - including multi-millionaire former British Finance Minister George Osborne.

Former Norton owner Stuart Garner (left) seen with then UK Finance Minister George Osborn on a visit to the Donington Park Norton HQ in July 2015.

The Guardian newspaper reports that MPs will ask UK pension regulators about how the £10m scam was investigated. Financial regulators are to be summoned to parliament to explain how they prosecuted a fraud case that has not led to anyone serving prison time.

During the period of his ownership, Garner and his iteration of Norton received a series of publicly funded grants and business incentives, along with tributes from the likes of George Osborne. Garner even managed to use Norton's brand to secure himself a cameo role in the 2015 Bond film Spectre and travelled with a government trade mission to China on Theresa May's jet when she was UK Premier.

Garner received an eight-month suspended prison sentence in 2022, with the judge saying that the former gamekeeper turned businessman would probably have been locked up if the Pensions Regulator, which was prosecuting the case, had alleged dishonesty - which, controversially, it did not do.

However, new findings include allegations Garner forged the signatures of business partners in order to allow him to more easily raise Norton funds; tapped sources of public money after making seemingly inaccurate claims to government bodies; oversaw a business where motorbikes returned to Norton for servicing were stripped of parts - which were then used to build bikes needed for new orders; owned an additional (fireworks) business where about £1m of assets appear to have been transferred from Norton just prior to the company being placed into administration in early 2022.

These latest allegations come on top of Norton pension holders complaining for years that Garner had repeatedly ignored their requests to return their retirement savings. In total, savers transferred about £10m during 2012 and 2013. Fresh evidence suggests that much of that money was immediately spent by the company to simply keep Norton running.

Norton slumped into administration in January 2020, leaving the pension fund owed about £14m at that point. In June 2020, Garner was ordered to repay the money after another UK Pensions oversight body, the Pensions Ombudsman - which is separate from the Pensions Regulator - ruled that Garner had indeed acted "dishonestly".

The UK Fraud Compensation Fund has now said that victims will be eligible to apply to it. However, it is estimated that victims will receive roughly half of what they thought they were owed. 

Norton was acquired out of administration by Indian conglomerate TVS in April 2020 and has since begun marketing new bikes as a separate business from the one owned by Garner.