HOMES and businesses in south Essex were raided during an investigation into an alleged £18million pension fraud.

Six people have been arrested as part of a joint investigation by The Pensions Regulator (TPR) and Essex Police.

TPR claims about 370 people have been persuaded to transfer around £18 million into eight pension schemes at the centre of the case.

It is alleged members’ funds have been passed on to companies connected to the suspects.

TPR opened a case after a number of legitimate schemes received requests from members to transfer their savings into these suspicious schemes and reported it to TPR.

Raids took place after warrants were issued for raids homes in in Rayleigh and Loughton.

A business on Canvey was also raided.

Four people – three men and one woman – were interviewed under caution and a further two men, one from Benfleet and one from Basildon, were arrested and questioned, all on suspicion of fraud offences. They were released while the investigation continues.

As part of the same investigation, a determinations panel – acting for the regulators – suspended nine people from acting as trustees for a year.

An independent trustee was appointed to oversee to the eight schemes at the centre of the investigation.

Nicola Parish, executive director of frontline regulation for TPR, said: “The legitimate schemes in this case did the right thing by raising their concerns with us and stopping their members transferring out and potentially losing their life savings in what we believe to be scams.

"If you are trying to transfer out of a pension scheme and your existing scheme is raising concerns you should listen to them. They are protecting your pension and any red flag warning signs should be taken very seriously.”

Anyone concerned should call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.