The senior MP who co-led the parliamentary inquiry and report into the collapse of BHS has urged the Serious Fraud Office to launch an investigation on the 88-year-old retailer’s former owners.
Birkenhead Labour MP Frank Field, the work and pensions committee chairman, has written to the head of the SFO calling them on to look at whether Sir Philip Green or Dominic Chappell had broken the law.
The latest development in the BHS scandal comes three days after a 60-page report on high street icon’s demise – which contains the findings of the joint inquiry by the work and pensions committee and the business, innovation and skills committee – said a string of leadership failures from Green and Chappell led to BHS’ downfall and the £571 million black hole left behind in its pension fund.
While Chappell and several directors from his Retail Acquisitions firm – plus some senior members of Green’s Arcadia Group – were criticised in the report, the blame for BHS’ collapse was ultimately placed on Green, who was accused of taking “hundreds of millions of pounds from BHS”.
In his letter, Field wrote that “in the light of the extraordinary evidence” outlined in the joint committee’s report, the SFO should examine whether money was “moved in such a way as to attempt to mislead people into believing Mr Chappell was a credible buyer for BHS”.
While the SFO has confirmed it reviewing documents relating to BHS which it has received, it has not yet confirmed whether a formal investigation would be launched.
“If the director considers there are reasonable grounds to suspect serious or complex fraud which meets his criteria, he will open a criminal investigation,” an SFO spokesperson said.
Chappell told The Guardian that he was “totally of the belief that everything we did was accurate and correct”.
All remaining BHS stores trading under administration are expected to shut down by the end of August, with the loss of 11,000 jobs.
The department store chain went into administration in April, 13 months after Green sold it to former bankrupt Chappell for £1.