Police probe Francis pensions fraud allegation

Francis Catering Equipment is now under police investigation for possible pension fraud.

Catering Insight has learned that West Midlands Police is to investigate whether pensions fraud has occurred at ex-distributor, Francis Catering Equipment.

The situation was first reported to ActionFraud, the UK’s national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, who passed the details to the local police branch. West Midlands Police then decided to pursue an investigation.

A West Midlands Police media spokesperson verbally confirmed to Catering Insight that Francis Catering Equipment was the company in question, and provided the following written statement: “West Midlands Police are currently looking into an allegation of fraud by a company in the Kingswinford area of Dudley, which is said to have taken place in April this year.

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“Enquiries continue. No arrests have been made.”

Former Francis Catering Equipment MD, Neil Humphries, has been approached to see if he would like to make any comment on the investigation.

Last month, Catering Insight reported that FRP Advisory, the administrator involved in the liquidation of Francis Catering Equipment and its subsequent asset sale to Unitech Industries, was itself investigating pensions irregularities surrounding the former company’s employee pension scheme.

FRP Advisory detailed that it was working to establish the value of an apparent pension deficit, which could see former employees issue claims for outstanding amounts.

Steve Stokes, partner at FRP Advisory and joint liquidator of Francis Catering Equipment and its associated company, Specialised Stainless Products, said at the time: “We are aware of an issue relating to employee pension contributions prior to the insolvencies of Francis Catering Equipment and Specialised Stainless Products, and have written to those employees affected seeking confirmation of pension deductions from their salaries.

“Once we have confirmed the value of deductions, this information will be passed to the Redundancy Payments Service. As part of the insolvency process, we will also consider any residual claims of the former employees.”

Francis’ Humphries commented at that stage that he was aware of the situation and acknowledged that there are pension issues relating to the old company that are currently in the process of being resolved.

“These stem from administrative confusion between ourselves and our external payroll providers around the staging date for auto enrolment,” he explained. “We accept our part in this scenario and have therefore been working for a number of months with the administrators for the business, FRP Advisory, to ensure that they have all of the relevant information. They are now working on behalf of all past and present employees and directors to obtain the best possible outcome for all.”

Humphries since left Francis Commercial Kitchen Services, the new entity formed by Unitech Industries’ purchase of the Midlands-based distributor’s assets in October 2017.

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