Ex-BHS boss Dominic Chappell denies pension probe charges

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Dominic Chappell denies
Former BHS owner Dominic Chappell leaves Brighton Magistrates' Court where he is accused by The Pensions Regulator (TPR) of failing to provide information to its investigation on three occasions, relating to the sale of the collapsed retailer. (Image source: Press Association)

Dominic Chappell has denied failing to provide information for an investigation into the sale of BHS.

The former owner of the retailer was summonsed in August to appear at Brighton Magistrates‘ Court yesterday, to face three charges of neglecting or refusing to provide information and documents to The Pensions Regulator without a reasonable excuse.

The regulator said they requested he provide information for their investigation on three separate occasions: April 26 and May 13 last year and February 20 this year.

Chappell has been accused by the regulator of failing to comply with notices issued under Section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004.

A former bankrupt, Chappell headed Retail Acquisitions, the firm that bought BHS off Sir Philip Green‘s Arcadia Group retail empire for £1 in March 2015.

The judges yesterday refused a request for an adjournment from Chappell after he said he had not seen the summons because he had been on a boat at sea when it was served.

He also alleged that his lawyer had recently been called away to a family emergency and he had not seen the evidence himself, and that a copy of the summons had not arrived at his remote country home either.

Chappell, 50, pleaded not guilty to the three charges.

He represented himself at the hearing and accused The Pensions Regulator of abusing its powers.

“We are saying that this is an abuse of process – that they have done this deliberately,” he said.

“We have supplied the information, they already had the information.

“They are abusing their powers in their current state.

“Myself and my team that I have worked with throughout the BHS days have complied fully with every single regulatory body.”

BHS plunged into administration 13 months after Chappell acquired it, affecting 11,000 jobs and around 19,000 pension holders due to a £571 million pension deficit.

Under Chappell‘s leadership, £8.4 million was taken out of BHS by Retail Acquisitions, with £6 million still owed when it collapsed last year.

Yesterday Chappell said he and his team have “not been sitting on our backsides”, before referring to Green’s £363 million BHS pensions settlement that was made earlier this year.

He added that HMRC had raided his home and seized his paperwork, which he has yet to have returned to him.

Alex Stein, who represented The Pensions Regulator, conceded that the seizure may be considered a defence of reasonable excuse.

However, he did not accept Chappell’s complaint that the group had abused its powers.

“The charges arise from The Pensions Regulator’s investigation of the purchase and collapse of British Home Stores,” Stein said.

“There was a large pensions shortfall at the time of the BHS collapse but these offences do not really much relate to that.

“These are technical offences.”

District judge William Ashworth adjourned the case for trial at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on January 8, listed to last up to four days.

The Serious Fraud Office and the Insolvency Service are also carrying out their own investigations into the demise of BHS.

Retail Acquisitions itself was put into liquidation in May, although Chappell said at the time he would challenge the court ruling.

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