A pensioner who lost £180,000 of savings after a currency firm collapsed when its owner suddenly died was forced to come out of retirement and do punishing manual work to make ends meet.
John Hopkinson, 70, lost one of the largest lumps of money when Portuguese-based Premier FX ceased trading – with almost £11million of customers’ funds mysteriously vanishing.
With his bank account beginning to run dry, the former mechanic from Yorkshire was forced to interrupt his three-year retirement and return to part-time work.
And his hopes of a comfortable lifestyle were also flipped upside down as he now ‘watches every penny’, including switching off his central heating to save money.
Mr Hopkinson told MailOnline: ‘I had to get a job and went back to repairing cars just to pay the bills.
John Hopkinson, 70, lost one of the largest lumps of money – £180,000- when Portuguese-based Premier FX ceased trading
Mr Hopkinson’s (left) money vanished when Premier FX suddenly collapsed following the death of its owner Peter Rextrew (right) after he had heart surgery
‘But soon I had to stop. I’m 70 years old, someone at my age shouldn’t be out in the cold doing this kind of work.
‘The whole thing has been a nightmare. My health has suffered – I’ve got back ache, and then there’s the stress.’
In January 2007, Mr Hopkinson and his wife moved to Lagos, Portugal, where they bought a house.
But the house was too big and they decided to sell the property, storing the money with Premier FX and renting a smaller place in the country.
In April 2015, the couple moved back to Yorkshire and Mr Hopkinson was looking forward to a comfortable retirement.
Yet in the summer of last year, Premier FX, a longtime sponsor of Channel 4’s A Place In The Sun, folded when its owner Peter Rextrew suddenly died following heart surgery.
Pauline Creasey (right), who lost nearly half a million pounds in Premier FX’s collapse and is spearheading the victims’ – such as Mr Hopkinson (left) – campaign to unearth the facts
When Mr Hopkinson tried to claw his £180,000 back, his attempts to communicate with the company were stonewalled before he was eventually told that millions of the firm’s holdings were missing.
Mr Hopkinson, who relied on his Premier FX-held money, has had to rip up his retirement plans and scrape by on a modest pension.
He said: ‘We’ve had to cancel the home we were going to buy together and move in to my wife’s cottage. If we didn’t have that option, I’d be on the streets.
‘I’ve had to put my whole life on hold. We should be going out for meals and things like that, but we just can’t do it.’
Confiding that money worries have caused ‘depression’, Mr Hopkinson said that he has to watch every penny and regularly sacrifices indoor heating to ‘keep the bills down’.
Describing the moment he found out that Premier FX had gone into administration, he said: ‘It’s like that feeling you get when you know something really bad is going to happen, you feel sick.’
The mother, 63, from Dover, Kent, said she was left ‘gutted and ruined’ when her £489,000 went missing following the currency firm’s collapse
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), who allowed Premier FX to make transfers in Britain, has launched an investigation into the missing £10.6million.
Andrew Bailey, the FCA chief executive, vowed to trace the funds and told a parliamentary committee that his teams have trawled through thousands of transactions in a desperate attempt to find it.
But Pauline Creasey, who lost nearly half a million pounds in Premier FX’s collapse and is spearheading the victims’ campaign to unearth the facts, told MailOnline the finance watchdog is ‘dragging its feet’ with the investigation.
The mother, 63, from Dover, Kent, said she was left ‘gutted and ruined’ when her £489,000 went missing following the currency firm’s collapse.
She had planned to use the money to move to Florida for an easy life, but is now scouting around for work as her bank balance begins to dwindle.
Premier FX was a long time sponsor of Channel 4’s A Place In The Sun
If I don’t get the money back and I don’t get compensation, and if I don’t find decent work – I’m now 63, it’s not easy…
Ms Creasey told MailOnline: ‘My plan had been to go to Florida and not work so hard, but now having to go back to working flat out it just not amenable either from a health point of view or I might just not be able to get the work.
‘The world of work is a tough environment, and I’ll try and make it work, but if not we’re in a bad situation.’
An FCA spokesperson said: ‘We continue to investigate the business undertaken by Premier FX to determine whether any individuals may have broken the law and thereby damaged customers of the firm.
‘There is no basis to the claim we are dragging out the investigation. The investigation remains fully resourced and is making good progress.’